One of the most hilarious things that can happen on a soccer field is also one of the most improbable. It's when a player attempts to take a shot on g...moreOne of the most hilarious things that can happen on a soccer field is also one of the most improbable. It's when a player attempts to take a shot on goal and misses so far wide that the ball crosses the sideline, resulting in a throw-in for the opposing team and much laughter from everyone who witnessed it. If you're unfamiliar with the sport or with the physics of striking a ball, trust me that this is not an easy thing to do. I've been playing/watching soccer for close to 25 years and I've personally witnessed this occurrence no more than a handful of times. I don't think I've ever seen it in a professional match. Simply put, nearly everything needs to go wrong for it to happen. But, in the end, it's tough to fault the player for the attempt. An attempt to score, even one with such hilarious results, is still better than no attempt at all.
This is a book in which nearly everything went wrong, but I'm happy it exists. The Dutch play the most beautiful and entertaining soccer on the planet, yet they have found minimal success at the international level. How can a country that plays the quintessential version of what Pelé dubbed "the Beautiful Game" not own a World Cup trophy? There are countless reasons and at times throughout the book David Winner explores them. The most interesting discovery is that many Dutch soccer fans and players prefer beauty to victory -- a team that wins ugly will often receive less respect and admiration than a team that loses beautifully. The author uncovers other fascinating and distinctly Dutch neuroses throughout the book. But in the end, he misses by a wide margin.
Nearly half of the book consists of lengthy (and apparently unedited) quotes from various Dutch soccer players, coaches, fans, artists, and architects, most of whom do not have the best command of the English language but seem to like the sound of their own voices. I found many of these quotes to be superfluous and it often felt like the author included a quote for the simple reason that he had gotten the quote. There are also lengthy descriptions of soccer matches and tournaments that are filled with so many unexplained references that only the most hardcore soccer fans would be able to follow the narrative.
Overall, the finished product appears to be a rush job. Maybe the author ran out of money or time. Maybe he got bored with the subject. Maybe he's just not that good of a writer. Whatever the reason may be, he missed a wonderful opportunity. But I appreciate the attempt.(less)
I became what I am today at the age of twenty-nine, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 2008.
What I am about to tell you about what I became is...moreI became what I am today at the age of twenty-nine, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 2008.
What I am about to tell you about what I became is going to be very shocking. It is going to manipulate your emotions. It may include some random words in my native language for no reason whatsoever. It will teach you unnecessary things about my culture. It will not be smarter than a fifth grader. And it will include as many cliches and as much foreshadowing as is humanly possible.
You are going to be shocked. I, for one, never saw it coming. So I doubt you will. Get ready. Aren't you so ready to be shocked? You're never going to see this coming.
What comes next is the big revelation, so get ready!
Wait, I need to ask you something first. Did you know that the Irish like potatoes? Yeah, we really enjoy them. And alcohol too. It's pretty great. Erin Go Bragh! This means Ireland Forever! Unfortunately, you will be very sad to know that my father just died due to an Irish car bomb. Well, about 15 of them to be exact. All on an empty stomach! It makes me sad and you should feel sad too, kind reader.
Ok, on to the big reveal. Here it is:
On that frigid overcast day, which happened to be the day that I decided to quit reading The Kite Runner, I became a book snob.
Because The Kite Runner is adored by most people who read it, I am forced to conclude that most people need to read more. A whole lot more. You should be embarrassed if you like this book. Seriously. The moment I became a book snob (shortly after "The Scene"), I became so embarrassed to be seen reading it that I accused the guy sitting next to me on the subway of putting the book on my lap while I wasn't paying attention. "How dare you, sir! Have you no decency?" I exclaimed excitedly in my native language. Then I noticed a monkey on the platform waiting to board a train. I quickly hopped off my train, ran to him, handed him the book, and said "Top O' the Mornin' to ya! Enjoy!"
Later that day, I saw that monkey flying a kite in front of the Washington Monument. I noticed that the glass string wasn't making his hands bloody. Do you know why? He was wearing gloves.
--------------------------------------------------------------- Please note that I have absolutely no appreciation for life and reality.*
*Bart Bondeson, who claims to be "a better person for having read this book," suggested that I make this clarification to my review. Thanks for the suggestion, Bart! Hopefully that clears things up for those who were wondering.(less)
“Abbott approaches sleep with an ineffable sense of relief that he did not know, before having a child, what it was like to have a child--did not real...more“Abbott approaches sleep with an ineffable sense of relief that he did not know, before having a child, what it was like to have a child--did not really know what it was really like--because if he had known before having a child how profoundly strenuous and self-obliterating it is to have a child, he never would have had a child, and then, or now, he would not have this remarkable child.”*
I see a lot of myself in Abbott. I like to think I have a big heart but I’m mostly just a selfish prick. I love my kids like I’ve never loved anything before, but I also hate them for what they've done to my life. Parenthood is so damn boring. I want freedom! I daydream about having an affair with the flirtatious waitress at the restaurant where I occasionally pick up takeouts just because it would bring some goddamn excitement to my life. But I won’t do that because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. Plus I wouldn't want to hurt my wife. After all, she has succeeded in doing what every woman tries to do to their husband: she made me a better man. Before my wife took over my life, I never would have dreamed of doing all of the shit I do around the house. Now on a typical Saturday morning I go grocery shopping, do three loads of laundry, change a few poop-filled diapers, and mow the lawn before my single friends have even gotten back from the bars. I’m a fucking robot. I hate my life. I want to fill my car with books and booze and drive westward! I won’t stop until I taste freedom or run out of gas money. But I’m no Rabbit Angstrom and neither is Abbott. We just struggle sometimes with how to be a husband, a father, and a man. We may think we want to drift away, but we know we won’t. We’d be even more miserable than we are now.
Abbott Awaits is my favorite book from 2011 and it could be yours if you would just read it, you jerk. It won’t take long. I sent this book as a gift to one of my friends whose wife was pregnant with their second child and he read the whole thing at the hospital while she was in labor. Here's the text he sent me to announce the birth: “[Our son] arrived yesterday. Mom and baby are doing well. By the way, I just finished Abbott Awaits. Great little book!” Notice which sentence got the exclamation point.
* The quoted sentence should win an award for how many times it uses the words "have" and "child" but don’t let that scare you off. The book is really smart and funny and well-written. (less)
My two-year-old son and I have settled into a bedtime routine where we read Goodnight Moon and then we read this book. He loves when the animals brush...moreMy two-year-old son and I have settled into a bedtime routine where we read Goodnight Moon and then we read this book. He loves when the animals brush and brush and brush their teeth and he loves when the boat rocks and rocks and rocks the animals to sleep but his favorite part is when they all go up...to exercise! That page never fails to get a belly laugh out of him.(less)
Thursday night is the only night of the week when Russell Harmon, the dart league king, can forget about his worries, snort a few lines of coke off of...moreThursday night is the only night of the week when Russell Harmon, the dart league king, can forget about his worries, snort a few lines of coke off of his framed high school diploma, drink a few pitchers of beer, and throw some fucking darts, man! Well, he probably does that every night of the week, but it’s the only night of the week when he can do it and win some fucking trophies, man! Russell Harmon lives for Thursday night, but this is no ordinary Thursday night because Russell Harmon might not live to see another. You see, Russell Harmon, God bless him, isn’t punctual when it comes to reimbursing his coke dealer, Vince Thompson. And Vince Thompson is at the end of his goddamn motherfucking rope and has decided it’s about goddamn time that he dust off his motherfucking Beretta and waste this fuzzy-brained dickwad before heading out of town and leaving his asshole motherfucking Air Force father and the rest of these stupid goddamn assholes behind. But Vince Thompson has a soft spot for Russell Harmon and after seeing Russell Harmon getting along so well with Kelly Ashton, the hot chick with breasts as big as grapefruits, Vince Thompson doesn’t know what to fucking do. The only reason Kelly Ashton is even out on a Thursday night -- her toddler is at home being watched by her alcoholic mother who often passes out with a burning cigarette in her hand -- is because she needs to find a man to get her out of this place and that man could very well be Tristan Mackey, a college graduate who is destined to leave this town in his wake but who has a dark secret that he wants to reveal tonight. But maybe Kelly Ashton is better off with Russell Harmon, her former boyfriend. Sure, Russell Harmon isn’t the smartest guy in the world but he is genuine. Plus, Kelly Ashton has a secret involving him that she may want to reveal tonight. Now if Brice Habersham, a former professional dart player and Russell Harmon’s only threat to the dart league throne, decides that tonight is the night to reveal his secret, then all hell is going to break loose.
The Dart League King is told from the close third person point of view of five different characters, all of whom seem to be in the midst of an existential crisis. I was a little thrown off by the fact that the five main characters present at the dart league championships at a bar in a small town in Idaho spend the better part of their respective chapters trying to figure out their place in this crazy, mixed up Idaho town. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If this were a novel about five young, literary, Ivy League graduates who end up drinking together in an Irish pub in Manhattan, I would expect each of them to spend their evening grappling with questions about their place in the world and “what does it all mean, Basil?” and on and on until you want them to form a suicide pact just to get the book over with. As this book's plot started to form, it became apparent to me that the inner crises of these small-town folks was a convenient plot device rather than an attempt to explore their humanity through their hopes and fears.
I think this book would have worked for me if I had truly bought any of the characters and if I didn’t feel like everyone’s situation was forced to make the plot work. In my opinion, your enjoyment of this book (as with almost any book) comes down to whether or not you believe in these characters as plausible people.
I did thoroughly enjoy the book’s descriptions of the actual dart matches. They are full of suspense and perfectly describe the rare feeling (for most people) of finding the zone and performing at the highest level. I wish the rest of the book had worked as well for me. (less)