From Publishers Weekly
In this collection of previously published articles and excerpts from his books, Pulitzer Prize–winner Maraniss (Clemente
) ranges over topics from the death of his sister and the deaths of strangers on September 11 to the political fortunes of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore and the timeless contributions to sports of legendary figures like Vince Lombardi, Muhammad Ali, and Roberto Clemente. With his characteristic elegance, Maraniss explores in these sketches just how ordinary life is until it is not. Thus, he gathers memories from survivors that seem trivial—such as the student walking into his German class at Virginia Tech joking with his professor—but that provide a reflection of the universal in the particular. He also examines in these essays the odd, chaotic mixture of banality and horror in the tragic experience itself. Visiting Vietnam with American soldier Clark Welch, Maraniss witnesses Welch conversing with North Vietnamese villager Nguyen Van Lam—two sworn enemies over 30 years ago—and marvels at the connections of history and individual lives and the intentions that rip people apart and sew them back together. Maraniss wonders how Vince Lombardi might have reacted to the shift of power between players and coaches in today's professional football world. Behind all his quaint notions of spartan discipline, team love, and obedience to the leader, Lombardi above all was adaptable, reacting to conditions quickly enough to bend things his way. Maraniss's lively sketches illuminate the lives of significant cultural and political figures and intimately capture various moments that define modern American cultural history. (Jan.)
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Maraniss, a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner, is a veteran newspaper journalist and the author of biographies of Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi, as well as a book about the politically charged 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. This collection of previously published pieces demonstrates his ability to capture, with a few well-chosen words, people and events with photographic clarity. The book’s profiles focus on the author’s two loves, politics and sports (Clinton, Obama, Gore; Lombardi, Ali, Clemente), but Maraniss also writes about universal themes: the death of a sister; the events of 9/11; the Vietnam War. He approaches all of his subjects from an objective journalist’s point of view: there is no hero worship in his profiles of admirable people, and no air of judgment in his portrayals of scoundrels (such as Edwin Edwards, the former Louisiana governor convicted on racketeering charges). The book is like a Maraniss sampler: read it, and then seek out the books from which some of its essays were drawn. --David Pitt