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Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer -BORING!

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  • Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer -BORING!

    After hearing so many rave reviews on Roger Kahn's "Boys of Summer," I decided to give it a try. After all, it's about baseball - the Brooklyn Dodgers - and I love reading up on baseball history. It seemed like a good book for me.

    Boy - was I disappointed! I'm currently on page 313, in the middle of Preacher Roe's story in Part II, and I don't know if I even want to finish this book.

    The first 150 pages focused too much on Roger Kahn. We learn about the neighborhood he grew up in. We learn about his mother Olga and her "vigilance against Philistinism." We learn of his father Gordon and his housekeeper Elisabeth. We also get a lot of story describing his experience at the Herald Tribute, a lot of which had nothing to do with baseball. He goes on and on introducing us to his co-workers in the Tribune, describing the building he worked in, and narrating his rise from being a copy-boy running errands for hairy women to a being sports writer covering the Dodgers.

    See, I wanted baseball. I wanted Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and others. I didn't want to read about Kahn himself. I didn't want to read about William Zinzerr, the drama editor at the Tribune, or about Bob Cooke, an assistant for the sports editors at the Tribune. I want to a story about baseball, not newspaper reporting.

    The book does get to baseball, but even then it's nothing special. We basically learn that baseball players curse and that after retirement they move on, get fat, and raise children.

    The 2nd part of the book, when Kahn tracks down the retired ballplayers, is basically a blitz of quotes. Here is the gist:

    First, Preacher Roe said this "....................".
    Then Roe said this ".................".
    Then Roe said this "...................."
    etc.

    I have a question for those of you who liked this book - why? Why did you enjoy it? I can't figure out how this book is called a classic.

  • #2
    Very interesting because always wanted to read it, now not so sure.
    "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

    "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
      Very interesting because always wanted to read it, now not so sure.
      I would strongly recommend it. It's an outstanding book. If you're looking for basic baseball, and facts about the players, it may not be for you. If you're interested in good literature, good writing, understanding what makes these players- and the author- tick, it's a great read. Yes, the book is about Kahn's relationbship with his father and how that formed him. But, that was also what led him to become a sportswriter- and one, who had the extraordinary opportunity to cover one of baseball's fabled teams while still in his 20s.

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      • #4
        I've never liked this book either. I'm not a big fan of Roger Kahn's books.

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        • #5
          The Boys of Summer is not a "typical" baseball book, to be sure, although I'm not sure what IS a typical baseball book. I've been re-reading The Glory of Their Times, which wasn't typical when it came out but spawned a genre in baseball literature.

          So, what is right and wrong with The Boys of Summer? It depends on your attitude. I think it's a meditation on growing up--Kahn getting older and seeing, as he quotes Dylan Thomas, the boys of summer in their ruin, although they aren't ruined; they are average American males of their time, in a lot of ways. Yet they are ruined because they are no longer the athletes he knew. So I think it's a lesson for us all.

          Could we do with less Kahn? Yes, but I think the autobiographical part is meant to set up the stories of the ballplayers as middle-aged men, as they were then, and to explain why these men mattered to us when young and why they should matter to us after they are done playing baseball.

          That said, most of Kahn's books have way too much Kahn in them. He has written some beautiful stuff over the years, but he always has struck me as not knowing a difference that Red Smith grasped beautifully. Smith could insinuate himself into an article through what he described and the words he used. Kahn needs to tell you he was there in the first person singular.

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          • #6
            I also was disappointed with this book...and as a history teacher i tend to read things that most people find boring...so take that for what its worth

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            • #7
              That is surprising I always thought this book was right there with "The Glory Of Their Times" which is my favorite baseball book. I think i'm gonna go with BigRon and read it to see for myself.
              "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

              "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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              • #8
                I am not a fan of Kahn's writing style either. The worst book of his I ever read was his one that was supposedly about the 1977-78 Yankees, and what I got instead was a book that wallowed obsessively on 1950s baseball for about half the length of the book before it finally got to the era it was supposed to be about. Kahn is not the only author I've come across guilty of this. Maury Allen wrote a book once that was supposedly about the Steinbrenner era, and that too had more digressions about the 50s Dodgers and 60s Mets than any kind of focus on the 70s-80s-90s Yankees.

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                • #9
                  I read it back in the mid-70's, in some college lit course. It sure beat reading "Beowolf" or Dickens. But yeah, he did go on too long about his career path. It was interesting to get an idea of what a beat writers life was like with the Dodgers in 52 & 53. The 2nd part of the book when he visits with the ballplayers some 20 years later has some good parts although it seemed Kahn went out of his way to try to paint a picture of a group of guys who were struggling with life and relationships in middle age and I think some of the players did get a bit upset with the way they were portrayed.

                  A much better book is Peter Golenbock's "Bums" a good history of the Dodgers of that era from Durocher era till they moved in 57, although all of his books rely heavily on recollections of old ballplayers which can frequently be historically inaccurate.
                  It Might Be? It Could Be?? It Is!

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                  • #10
                    I've always felt exactly the same way about it. I read it first in '81, when I was on a jag of reading sports books and it was probably the only one that I really actively disliked, for all of the reasons that redban outlines.

                    I was looking for a definitive chronicle of that team's time on the scene, not an episodic account of his life that touched on his time covering them only obliquely. And that second section is mostly maudlin, cloying and emotionally manipulative.
                    3 6 10 21 29 31 35 41 42 44 47

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                    • #11
                      Okay, this finally has to go on my list. Soon as I'm done with Pinstripe Empire.
                      The Evil Empire shall strike back again!
                      http://litbases.wordpress.com/

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                      • #12
                        I feel the same way about "Field of Dreams."
                        If I had only spent a tenth of the time studying Physics that I spent learning Star Wars and Baseball trivia, I would have won the Nobel Prize.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Allie Fox View Post
                          I feel the same way about "Field of Dreams."
                          The movie or the book Shoeless Joe? I wasn't so much bored as incredibly annoyed at the latter.
                          Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                          Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                          Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                          Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                          Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
                            The movie or the book Shoeless Joe? I wasn't so much bored as incredibly annoyed at the latter.

                            The movie. I am no fan of Kevin Costner the actor. I think he does a better job behind the camera and probably needs to stay there.

                            I haven't read the book as the fantasy element does not really appeal to me.
                            If I had only spent a tenth of the time studying Physics that I spent learning Star Wars and Baseball trivia, I would have won the Nobel Prize.

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