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Perfectly Awful: The Philadelphia 76ers' Horrendous and Hilarious 1972-1973 Season.
Rosen, Charley (author).
Oct. 2014. 201p. Univ. of Nebraska, hardcover, $24.95 (9780803248625). 796.323.
First published October 15, 2014 (Booklist).
In the pantheon of bad sports teams, the 1972–73 Philadelphia 76ers are enshrined with baseball’s 1962 New York Mets, who won just 40 of 160 games. Just six seasons earlier, the 76ers, led by Wilt Chamberlain, were NBA champs. Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer was the only player left from that team by ’72, leaving a roster made up of a lethal combination of over-the-hill veterans and questionably talented youngsters. More problematic was the coach, Roy Rubin, who lacked exposure to the pro game and was inexperienced in coaching grown men. Half the players hated him, and the other half didn’t like him. The team’s failings make a great subject for Rosen, who knows basketball from the inside as a player and professional coach. He understands the subtleties of the locker room, and, in this tale of laughable woe, he nails the fractured team dynamic through first-person interviews with the players, coaches, and writers who covered the team. The literature of sport usually focuses on championship teams and players. But the road to the top is littered with vanquished foes. The ‘72–’73 76ers are the ultimate vanquished foe. Great reading.
School Library Journal
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HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
drama is a prism illuminating the often conflicting cultural and social
temperaments of contemporary Africa.
primarily in Nairobi, this 12th novel by Somali-born Farah (Crossbones,
2011, etc.) sifts through the personal and emotional fallout of a terrorist
attack in Mogadishu that kills a U.N. official who emigrated from his native
Somalia decades before. His grief-stricken sister Bella, a model-turned–professional photographer, decides
to leave behind her own expatriate life in Europe and resettle in Kenya, where
she will honor her brother’s wishes by caring for his teenage son, Salif, and
daughter, Dahaba. Saying the least, this arrangement does not please their
brash, self-centered mother, Valerie, who arrives in Nairobi with her lesbian
lover, Padmini, to stake her claim upon the children, who prefer their more
worldly and levelheaded aunt as a legal guardian. With delicacy and
compassion, Farah, whose own sister was killed earlier this year in a terrorist
bombing while working for UNICEF, fashions a domestic chamber piece where
motives, yearnings and regrets intersect among these complex, volatile
personalities against a wider backdrop of religious and cultural conflict,
social and political upheaval, and even “family values” in post-millennial
Africa. Even the most offhand conversations Bella and the other major
characters have with Nairobi citizens of varied ages and genders throw
unexpected and necessary light upon aspects of a society that the rest of the
world knows, or cares, relatively little about. (It’s a solid bet that most
readers outside Africa aren’t aware of Kenyans’ bigotry toward the Somalis
choosing to live in their country.) Throughout this novel’s big and small
incidents, Farah maintains a narrative composure that shuns typecasting,
reserves judgment and keeps his readers alert to whatever hidden graces emerge
from even the most difficult characters.
unassuming triumph of straightforward, topical storytelling that both adds to
and augments a body of work worthy of a Nobel Prize.
IF I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO BE THIS BEAUTIFUL, I NEVER WOULD HAVE LET YOU GO
A vivid portrayal of the disappointed young adults in Elephant
Beach, a fading East Coast seaside town, in 1972. Beware the seductive lure of
sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
proprietor of a local hangout tells Katie, the 18-year-old narrator of
this affecting debut short story collection, “You’re different than the other
kids around here. You want my advice? Get out of Dodge. Now.” But in the summer
after her high school graduation, there is some life lesson that Katie needs to
learn from this on-the-skids town and her colorful, chain-smoking friends.
Everyone around her is trying to escape the challenging circumstances that
surround them in this working-class community. The women’s dreams are quickly
crushed in evanescent sexual affairs, which end in abandonment, arguments,
abortions or just male indifference; the men they get involved with are too
troubled or immature or stoned to be dependable partners. The rest of the
country, roiling from the Vietnam War, seems distant, as does nearby Manhattan.
Katie’s friends are both contemptuous and jealous of the occasional hippie or
privileged student who drifts by. Mitch, who lost a leg in Vietnam and is
drinking himself to death, is the poster boy for those unable to withstand the
vicissitudes of life. Katie, who comes from a more affluent family but works at
an A&P, is obsessed with Luke, an elusive, recently returned vet; she is
also grappling with her own adoption. What makes the desperation that abounds
compelling is Chicurel’s perfect pitch for the characters’ patter, which is
blunt, cynical, often profane and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
Will Katie get her
man? Will she make a break from this hard-luck population? The author’s
masterful writing makes this short stay in Elephant Beach worthwhile.
FIELDS OF BLOOD
Comparative religions expert Armstrong (Twelve Steps to a
Compassionate Life, 2010, etc.) provides a comprehensive and erudite study
of the history of violence in relation to religion.
The author’s global perspective is epic in scale and begins
with the very dawn of human history. She begins the book by asserting,
“[m]odern society has made a scapegoat of faith,” and she ends by noting that
the “problem lies not in the multifaceted activity that we call ‘religion’ but
in the violence embedded in our human nature and the nature of the state.”
Armstrong also takes pains to explain that religion, as it is defined and
discussed in modern society, is a construct of Protestant-influenced, Western
culture and would not be understood by most cultures through time. Instead of a
personal choice, religion has long been an ingrained aspect of most cultures,
subject to the needs of societal survival along with every other aspect of a
culture. Armstrong sees agrarian society as the source of most violence through
history, in which a ruling minority controlled an agrarian majority by force
while also attempting to expand territory. Religion served as a way of
comprehending and handling the violence inherent in such societies. The rise of
secularism—which, as the French Revolution handily proved, could be quite
violent in its own right—created a void in which religion, and especially
fundamentalism, could arise in a juxtaposing, visible role. This new role for
religion has brought about the “religious violence” of modernity, whether it
was Jonestown’s “revolutionary suicide” or the spread of Islamic fanaticism.
Armstrong leads readers patiently through history, from Mesopotamia to ancient
India to the Palestine of Jesus to the China of Confucius. As always, her
writing is clear and descriptive, her approach balanced and scholarly.
An intriguing read, useful resource and definitive voice in
defense of the divine in human culture.