Mandahla: The Krzyzewskiville Tales Reviewed

The Krzyzewskiville Tales

Every year there should be a book treasured for its unspellable and unpronounceable title or author. Duke University Press has scored with this basketball book built around a Chaucerian conceit in The Krzyzewskiville Tales by Aaron Dinin ($21.95, 0822336332, October). Visions of countless booksellers and customers struggling with Krzyzewski (Sha-shef-ski), giving up and trying variants on Dinin, recall Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Remember when everyone was practicing saying "Chick-sent-mih-high?" Fortunately, Dinin's book can also be treasured for its wit and charm.

Every year, a tent city is formed at Duke and used to determine which students are admitted into home games. Named Krzyzewskiville after Duke's head basketball coach, it's filled with students huddled in tents, subject to complicated rules and arcane customs. Aaron Dinin tells the story of these intrepid Cameron Crazies, as they are called, using The Canterbury Tales as his model--12 students, a sportswriter and a competition to tell the best story.

Dinin begins with a Chaucerian prologue ("When January with his show'rs frozen/Has shrouded all in this town of Durham. . ."), and ends with a glossary of tenting talk. In between, the tales of the English Major, the Pre-Law Student, the Engineer and nine others unfold. The Math Major begins his story by explaining, "Being a Cameron Crazie isn't all fun and games . . . it takes hours of practice, patience, sweat, and even blood to earn the distinction of being the best fans in the nation."

Although the primary market for this book is obvious, it would be enjoyed by anyone wanting to read about college basketball, college life, digs at sociology majors or the anthropology of demented, blue and white-painted sports fans.--Marilyn Dahl
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