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When a former speech writer to President George H. W. Bush writes a baseball book, and when the fundamental message of that book is subversively conservative (glorifying the return to traditional ballparks), nothing would make me happier than to be able to recommend it unreservedly.  Sadly, I do have reservations.  There's much useful information in the book and it is illustrated beautifully, with prints from Bill Goff's great art gallery, but Smith's storytelling style, which one assumes was intended to come across as casual and conversational, is so slangy and unstructured that it sometimes fails to make sense and, worse, feels like he's condescending to the audience.

Smith does not deserve all the blame for this, a decent editor could have saved him in the spots where his prose becomes too tangled.  But just read this sentence :

    The New York Times' William Safire once likened Richard Nixon to a layer cake: To know him,
    you must imbibe each layer.

I couldn't find the quote, and I suppose it's possible that the word maven and fellow former presidential speech writer put it just that way, but this is at best an unusual use of the word imbibe, which generally refers to drinking not eating, and at worst is just plain bad English.  Even if Safire said it, Smith should not have used it.  You sure as heck don't imbibe a layer cake and let's assume that not even Safire imbibed Richard Nixon.

In the end, there's enough fresh material here about ballparks, and I like the overarching theme enough, that I'd give the book a qualified recommendation.  But be warned that some of the verbal thickets can be tough going.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C)

  

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