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Room for Improvement: A Life in Sport [Kindle Edition]

John Casey
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the author of the novel Spartina, which won the National Book Award and has established itself as a modern classic, comes a collection of essays that describe with tenderhearted candor and humor a lifetime’s worth of addiction. No, not an addiction to booze or drugs, but an addiction to a more natural gratification: the joy of sport, exercise, and the sheer elation of being ready and willing to say yes to a challenge. Want to run a marathon? OK. Climb Mount Katahdin? Sure! How about canoeing the entire length of the Delaware River? Why not?  
Spanning more than fifty years of ambitious and sometimes peculiar endeavors, these essays take us along on some of Casey’s greatest adventures: a twenty-six-day Outward Bound course in Maine during the dead of winter; being pinned by a two-hundred-pound judo instructor whose words, “Come on, white boy. Don’t give up,” encourage at least one more attempt at escape; leading a lost couple on a yacht through the rocky waterways of Narragansett Bay by a simple rowboat; and completing—on his seventieth birthday—a 70K marathon of his own devising that included rowing, bicycling, skating, Rollerblading, and finally, trotting the dog out for a mile.
Be it a preoccupation with health, vanity, or just an indomitably playful sense of adventure, John Casey’s Room for Improvement is a joyful self-portrait of a writer who loves going to extremes, just to find out what it’s like once he gets there.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


"A wonderful match of subject and style . . . [Casey's] writing is simple and crisp. It holds the clarity of early morning." —The New York Times Book Review 

"He's a damned good writer . . . How many professor types do you reckon would tackle a 50-mile run along the Adirondack Trail or an 11-day winter-survival course in Main that included two nights along in a makeshift cave?" —Wall Street Journal

"There's a lot of humor in these essays, most of it good-naturedly aimed at Casey himself. But he's serious, too. Casey doesn't scold those of us who aren't as physically active as we used to be; rather, he entices us to consider getting moving again, preferably outside." —The Boston Globe

"Room for Improvement
is a marvel of closely observed mostly outdoor sport, much of it alarmingly strenuous, but colored throughout by infectious exuberance and tolerance for discomfort. With genteel detachment well to the rear, Casey brings us point blank to the levels of sporting commitment that rise to illumination." —Thomas McGuane

"In these empirical and informative essays, John Casey writes with the 'savor of attentiveness' about those peaks in cardiovascular exercise when we feel transformed—about being, as he puts it, 'encased in the rhythm of what I was doing.' Casey has walked, run, rowed, paddled, and cross-country skied. Not unlike those sports, these connected essays flow into one another, and they reflect more than an author's willingness to suffer 'a ruffled minor vanity'; not unlike the over-seventy athlete he is, John Casey's writing is exemplary and tireless." —John Irving

About the Author

John Casey was born in 1939 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Iowa. His novel Spartina won the National Book Award in 1989. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is professor of English literature at the University of Virginia.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1027 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 030770002X
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 8, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004P8JPP4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,083,548 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage to the vigorous life ... December 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
True confessions: my Gmail address is Compared to John Casey, author of ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, though, I readily concede my poseur status. Now well into his 70's, Casey is The Real Deal when it comes to Geezer Jockdom.

In ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, Casey devotes each chapter to a phase of physical and athletic passion that he has engaged in during his seven decades. Each chapter is a stand-alone essay. Weaving them together is a clear and strong passion for the outdoors, for sports and for the vigorous life. Detractors might dismiss Casey as an athletic dilettante, but I think that would be harsh. The chapters cover a diverse array of athletic and outdoor passions, including:

* A 50-mike hike (in the heyday of the JFK era)
* A maritime-themed Outward Bound course off Maine's coast
* Various rowing and canoeing adventures
* Marathoning
* Judo
* Cross-country skiing

Casey brings a palpable sense of passion as he writes of the physical life and the pleasures of exercising. It's amazing what he is able to do as he gets older. If he suffers from many injuries or ailments, these never made the cut for the book. Well into his 70's, he is able to sustain a level of physical activity that would drop most people have his age.

There is the sense that modern life, with all its technology and conveniences, has made our existence too cushy and easy. There lingers among some a desire to take the harder, more rigorous route and to test themselves. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT taps into this vein. Even if you have never engaged in any of the sporting or outdoor avocations depicted by Casey, his sparse prose makes for an absorbing read and may inspire you to get outside, chop some wood or dust off your bike.

Though there may be room for improvement in ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, I'm hard-pressed to specify what that may be and give it five stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Room for improvement -- a mantra for my own life June 14, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
John Casey's books, especially Spartina and its sequel Compass Rose, seemed to me to have a close connection with hard physical labor, as if that sort of labor gave strength and power and a sort of deeper meaning to his words. I glanced through this book of essays over a cup of coffee a few days ago, and found this passage:

"My body was changing mysteriously. The sky was apple green; the air felt like a silk shirt. I had to go somewhere far away. My body was changing so I would be able to. It grew longer and lighter. I began to run, easily but with an astonishingly powerful spring. Air came into my lungs not only through my mouth but directly through the skin of my chest. It was like slaking a deep thirst. I came to a hill. I feared it would be the end of the magic but the new magic just coiled tighter. It made me laugh."

That was it! I could remember many of those same feelings, not as in a dream as Casey was describing, but on the trail -- on Mount Marcy in New York, on Rainier in California, on a small but steep pitch in the Ramapos. Those words underlay Casey's writings, but also my physical exertions over many active years.

Casey writes in his Preface: "The subject of this book is exercise, from middle age into old age." His essays cover running, rowing, skiing, cycling, skating, climbing, judo and more -- and dreaming about many of those activities as well.

Casey has outdone me in the variety of activities -- although he doesn't cover the joys of storing bales of hay or cleaning cow and horse pens --but he captured many of the joys and motivations in my own life for physical exercise: losing weight, adventure, competition with others and myself, playfulness, the rush of endorphins, just plain joy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart and companionable March 18, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wonderful pieces abound! This is a great gift book --for yourself (my case) or for anyone who likes graceful, witty writing, or for any amateur athlete, a runner, a hiker, a rower. Casey is a National Book Award winning novelist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful essays July 25, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great series of linked essays about John Casey's involvement with individual sports throughout his life. Also lovely evocation of his life in beautiful spots like an island off of Rhode Island, etc.
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More About the Author

John Casey was born in 1939 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Iowa. His previous novel, Spartina, won the 1989 National Book Award for fiction. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is Henry Hoyns Professor in the English Department at the University of Virginia. He is literary executor of the estate of Breece D'J Pancake.


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