Browsing, Chapter 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my browsing adventures in three bookstores. I bought enough books to take me through a hard winter (or hot summer). Said winter would seem like the perfect time to read The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown. I knew Brown's writing from his later book, the deservedly lauded The Boys in the Boat, so was pleased to find this. Brown writes, "In many ways this book began one hot October afternoon in the fall of 2006 when I drove up the Napa Valley searching for bones." He finds them at the 1907 grave of his father's uncle, who traveled with the Donner party, and starts his engrossing story via the life of party member Sarah Graves. A different western history is Jenny Forrester's lyrical memoir, Narrow River, Wide Sky. It too begins in a cemetery, in western Colorado, as she and her brother consider where to bury their mother, "Her skin of rose cream and cold, calloused hands, her warm, soft heart, a cup of tea in a coffee place."

Switching gears, I found two sports books. Playing While White: Privilege and Power On and Off the Field by Dr. David J. Leonard explores the centrality of race in sports culture. His discourse on "playing the game the right way," i.e., the "white" way, is incisive and troubling.

Mark Kingwell is a philosophy professor. In Fail Better: Why Baseball Matters, he brings his metaphysical sensibility to the game where "geometry becomes poetry." Baseball fans will relate: "Sometimes, the game means so much to me that I can't even watch it. It's too excruciating... the ridiculous difficulty of making anything happen." But "the constant renewal of tension out of pause, of action exploding from an apparent standstill, is an ever-recurring wonder." --Marilyn Dahl

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