Today, we are featured in the Dallas Morning News in a Business section column by Cheryl Hall.
The article describes our First Friday Book Synopsis at the Park City Club in Dallas.
Use this link or click here:
We appreciate all the support from our many regular attendees for these 18 years!
Many of our blog readers do not live or work in the DFW area, where we host the First Friday Book Synopsis.
But, if you are interested, there is considerable activity with authors making appearances in our area, touring, lecturing, and signing.
We are not allowed to copy the entirety of an article due to fair use restrictions, but if you live here, and you would like to see some details on these visits, please click here.
If you have never been to an author’s lecture or signing, you have really missed something. These are a lot of fun, and you can usually leave with an autographed copy.
This was the schedule published in the Dallas Morning News on March 22, 2015.
Today, I saw that he published his list of the top 50 sports books, in an article entitled “By My Reading…” (March 15, 2015, p. 14C) Click the link here and you will see an interactive page that explains why he believes that a book belongs on the list, and what it contributes.
Cowlishaw is a veteran sports reporter in the DFW area. He also appears on the ESPN national television program “Around the Horn.” He joined the Dallas Morning News in 1989. He has been a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Stars. Today, he focuses his work on daily columns.
It was fun to look at Cowlishaw’s list of books. If I were making such a list, I would include Men at Work by George Will (Easton Press, 1990). That book explained the game day business of baseball better than anything I have ever seen. It convinced me, as well as others, that baseball is not “boys at play.”
I was amazed how many of the books I had read, and even saved. My favorites off his list were:
- Ball Four by Jim Bouton (Dell, 1971)
- Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn (Harper and Row, 1972)
- Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger (De Capo Press, 2000)
- Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof (Holt, 2000)
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton, 2004)
- Cosell by Howard Cosell (Playboy Press, 1973)
- Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer (World Press, 1968)
Cowlishaw did a good job of selecting and explaining why these books were prominent in a very concise way.
After reading it, I wanted to go out to the garage and see if I can pull out some of these. Some would be yellowed, tattered, and torn.
Of course, I would have to find them first.
We rarely get any comments on our blog posts. But, I am interested to see if you would add or subtract any sports books from his list after you look it over.
Since the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team,” you can understand why they have been the subject of so many books. I have read a lot of them.
The most recent, and likely, best-selling edition is called The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America by Joe Nick Patoski (New York: Little Brown, 2012). At 805 pages, it does the job.
But, I don’t think it’s the best. If you really want the history, go back to a book that concentrates on the first nine years of the team’s existence (1960-1969). And, that book is entitled Dallas Cowboys Pro or Con: A Complete History by Sam Blair (New York: Doubleday, 1970). The book is long out of print, but it is available through third-party sellers.
Before his retirement, Blair was a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. I met him through the late Merle Harmon, who broadcast games for area sports teams for many years. Blair was the paper’s first Dallas Cowboys writer, and he worked for the Dallas Morning News for 41 years (1954-1995).
Blair was a writer in a different era. In his career, there was not muckraking, blowing up heresay into facts, instant messaging, social media availability, or anything like today’s journalistic activity. Writers went to press conferences, chatted informally with players and coaches, kept off-the-record tidbits exactly that way, and did not blow up rumors into stories. It is true that they were laid-back, let the stories come to them, and were definitely not Watergate-style investigative reporters.
Perhaps even more so than Blair was Red Smith, who was an editorialist for the New York Times and New York Herald Tribune from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. I read a great collection of his columns in a book by Daniel Okrent entitled American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith (New York: Library of America, 2013). Writers like Blair and Smith were just so different than you see today.
But, back to the Cowboys book by Blair. I guess that I select it for history because it is concentrated on the early years. It does not have to spread itself thin over 50 years. The context of Dallas, Texas, and especially the rivalry for ticket sales with Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans is so vivid in the book. Because it only covers the first nine years, you find all aspects of the team covered in a well-developed manner.
There were other books published about the team at that time that were also good. I remember reading the late Steve Perkins’ Next Year’s Champions (New York: World Publishing, 1969) . But, that book focused on a single season when the Cowboys did not advance as far as they had previously into the NFL Championship game. I remember it had a drawing of Don Meredith on the cover, wrapped around by Green Bay Packer linebacker Dave Robinson, as he through an interception into the end zone in the fourth quarter of the 1966 NFL Championship game. And, I remember how much I was stricken by the racism and bigotry in our area, even for star Cowboys players in the 1960’s, as told in Cotton Bowl Days by John Eisenberg, which was later retitled, and is now unavailable even through third party sellers.
I just think if you want to study the team’s history, why not read it historically? And, Blair’s book is the one that allows you to do that. You have to search for it, but you can find it.
I am reading the massive work A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II by Maury Klein (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013). I say massive because it is 912 pages long. As Jim Landers noted in his review that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the book “makes a big call on the reader’s time and patience. The book begins with 2 1/2 pages of acronyms.”
I find it interesting and revealing. It is all about how America got people, equipment, and resources ready to fight in World War II, when that idea was not popular, not funded, and not in vogue at the time. The book reveals the uphill battle that FDR and others faced when trying to prepare America for its involvement in the war. Since I am on page 62 out of 912, I will likely finish this around Christmas.
However, I wanted to call one important distinction to you that appears early in the book. I don’t think very many people understand the difference.
After World War I, the attitude of many Americans was popularly called isolationism. That is the term that I learned in history, and that we use today to describe even the modern era of American involvement with other countries and world events.
Klein notes this is incorrect. At the outset of World War II, he says: “This determination to let Europe stew in its own malign juices fostered the revival of an old American attitude. Popularly known as isolationism, it was more accurately unilateralism. The object was not to sever contact with the rest of the globe, especially in matters of trade and commerce, but rather to ensure that only Americans decided what the nation would and would not do overseas” (p. 4).
It was unilateralism, and not isolationism, that was behind America’s strong rejection of membership in the League of Nations. Leaders and ordinary citizens alike did not want the United States to have any say in whether American troops would fight overseas, and repeat the deaths and expense from World War I.
Even today, you hear people say that isolationism is behind America’s decision to withdraw from foreign conflicts, avoid intervention, and so forth. More accurately, it is unilateralism at play, as we do not wish to sever contact, but decide ourselves to what extent we will be involved with other countries.
Who, by the way, is Maury Klein, the author of this massive work? From the University of Rhode Island website, a 1971 graduate, John Pantalone, wrote this in the university’s magazine, Quadrangles:
The author of 13 books on various aspects of 19th century American history, including three nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Klein recently finished a large scale book about the steam and electrical revolutions, entitled The Powermakers, which will be published next fall. Another book under contract will follow about the Union Pacific Railroad, about which he has written two volumes. He has a proposal in for a third book, and likely won’t stop after that.
“I’m finally free to write,” Klein says. “It’s what I always wanted to do. I really didn’t know how I would earn a living writing. I figured if I taught history, it’s all there.”
Most of Klein’s students would remember him as an American history scholar and a tough grader. But he is much more than that. An actor who once appeared with the nationally acclaimed Trinity Repertory Company and a persistent athlete, he has balanced the isolation of writing with physically active and interactive “hobbies.”
“I think of Maury as a gifted writer, an imaginative teacher, and an intense competitor,” says History Department colleague Michael Honhart. “I saw Maury’s competitive side when I played softball with him 20 years ago. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the same competitive spirit at work in everything Maury does.”
Klein underwent heart surgery several years ago and works out in a gym three times a week. He still plays softball in the recreation league in South Kingstown in the summers, basketball in a 50-and-over league on Sunday mornings, and pickup games with faculty colleagues twice a week.
“I’ve known Maury for almost 40 years,” says Political Science Professor Alfred Killilea. “The thing about Maury is that he is so witty that he makes the most literary complaints on the court. The referees usually don’t realize he’s complaining.
“When he plays, he has a stigmata about him,” Killilea says half-jokingly. “He sweats on his T-shirt in the shape of Mickey Mouse.”
Good-natured teasing aside, Killilea recalls Klein giving “marvelous lectures” in a summer class he team taught with him on the Watergate scandal in the ’70s. “Students often speak appreciably about Maury’s classes,” Killilea said, “and they must mean it because he is a notoriously hard grader.”
Klein confirms the reputation and complains that since the ’60s and ’70s standards have lagged and student readiness has suffered. “Some of it has to do with the country changing to a visual society over the past 50 years,” he says. “It has destroyed the language and the complexity of ideas that reading and writing allow. As a result, in too many cases, professors give grades to students simply because they did the right thing. I don’t grade as hard as I once did, but I think I grade harder than most.”
Recognized by the University for his teaching and scholarly research, Klein took innovative approaches with several classes including one where a parent of every student in the class also took the course. For another class he invented “The Entrepeneur Game,” where students took the roles of business people, bankers, lawyers, and government officials.
In his early years at URI Klein also devoted himself to institutional activities and committees through the Faculty Senate, but he stopped most of that by the mid-’70s to spend more time writing. The irony of his writing career is that he never intended to become an expert in 19th century history. “I didn’t want to be pigeonholed, so I taught everything I could think of even though I did my Ph.D. dissertation on a Civil War general because I was studying [at Emory University] with a prominent Civil War historian,” he said. “The dissertation became my second book. But most of what I wrote about later was accidental.”
It began to evolve when Klein met a noted historian who suggested he apply for the Newcomen Fellowship at the Harvard Business School. “Surprisingly, I got it, so I spent a year at Harvard, which led to my book on the railroad. After that I got a call from MacMillan asking me to do a volume for a series they were publishing. All of a sudden I was a railroad expert.”
Klein’s knowledge of railroad history and the magnates who drove rail development has attracted national attention. He has appeared in numerous historical documentaries and is often quoted in related works. The Providence Journal, in a recent editorial, referred to Klein as “one of the lesser known treasures of the Ocean State,” citing Klein’s writing about the development of the American economy, a subject that resulted in his best known work, a biography of the financier Jay Gould. The book depicts Gould in a more rounded fashion than as the stereotypical evil, bloodthirsty villain of high finance.
The Life and Legend of Jay Gould became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It also inspired Klein to further investigate the “robber barons,” whom he generally describes as extraordinary men who took the risks that built 20th century American economic power. While that is not the popular perception of the likes of Gould, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harriman, and others, Klein says it is the accurate one.
Along his accidental path, Klein also served for a time as chair of the Theatre Department. Theatre professor Judith Swift, who worked with him on stage and off at URI and off campus, says of him: “Maury is undoubtedly one of the most prolific scholars at URI. I was privileged to work with him on a number of projects. I always found these experiences to be an opportunity to learn a great deal about authenticity and integrity in research.”
Reflecting on his career, Klein sees some irony in having taught at URI for over four decades and having lived in Rhode Island for all of that time. As a child his family moved around the country frequently, and the longest he lived in one place was two-and-a-half years. “I think that’s why I pursued writing, which is a solitary practice,” he said. “But I also needed physical interaction, which is where the athletics come in. I never played on a school team as a kid, but I would miss it now if I didn’t do it.” He won’t miss his writing; we can expect several more books from the retired professor.”
Taken from: http://www.uri.edu/quadangles/issue/may-2008
And can he write! None of his books are short, and this is no exception. However, it is revealing, and I am learning a lot. As I find anything else that could interest you as I read, I will post it here.
You may have noticed that The Dallas Morning News is sponsoring a One Day University on Saturday, May 10, 2014. You pick five classes out of ten possible choices. This event has appeared in several regions in the country, including New York City. Registration information is available by clicking here.
One of these classes is taught by Joseph Luzzi from Bard College. Who is he? Luzzi is a Ph.D. from Yale and has specialized in Italian studies and literature at Bard College since 2002. At Bard, he serves as Co-Director of the college’s First-Year Seminar program, a full-semester “great books” course that covers major texts and intellectual traditions. His book, My Two Italies (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is scheduled for release in July, 2014. Here is a description of that book from Amazon.com:
A poignant personal account from a child of Calabrian peasants whose lifelong study of Italy unveils the mysteries of this Bel Paese, “Beautiful Land,” where artistic genius and political corruption have gone hand and in hand from the time of Michelangelo to The Sopranos. The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature, in My Two Italies, Joseph Luzzi straddles these two perspectives to link his family’s dramatic story to Italy’s north-south divide, its quest for a unifying language, and its passion for art, food, and family. From his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman—to his adventures amid the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Luzzi creates a deeply personal portrait of Italy that leaps past facile clichés about Mafia madness and Tuscan sun therapy. He delves instead into why Italian Americans have such a complicated relationship with the “old country,” and how Italy produces some of the world’s most astonishing art while suffering from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society. With topics ranging from the pervasive force of Dante’s poetry to the meteoric rise of Silvio Berlusconi, Luzzi presents the Italians in all their glory and squalor, relating the problems that plague Italy today to the country’s ancient roots. He shares how his “two Italies”—the earthy southern Italian world of his immigrant childhood and the refined “northern” Italian realm of his professional life—join and clash in unexpected ways that continue to enchant the many millions who are either connected to Italy by ancestry or bound to it by love.
His class at the one day university is entitled “Four Books Every Book Lover Should Read.” I snooped a bit to see if I could discover what these titles are, and I found a previous presentation where he discussed six. My educated guess is that the four he discusses in Dallas are from these six:
Dante’s Divine Comedy (1319)
Shakespeare’s Othello (1604)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925)
Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927)
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961)
Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997)
So, how many of these have you read? And, do you agree with these six? And, would you pick this class if you decide to attend?