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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"The Silent Season of a Hero", Sportsman Talese

The Silent Season of a Hero- Gay Talese

Back to Gay Talese. Fourth book reviewed and so happy to recover the new journalist maestro (although I don't believe he would agree) in full form after the disappointing "A Writer's Life".

At least in Spain, if there's a sub-genre of journalism that really needs to be transformed is sports-writing. Here is simply pathetic, a bunch of lies and silliness, just for the sake of filling pages and pages in order to complete the length of the newspaper, sadly, the ones who get more readers (way more) than the "regular" ones. It's extremely hard for me to think on a sport journalist that I could qualify of attractive in his/her writings. Don't even get me started on interviews or press conferences: there's nothing pointless or boring enough to compare with...

Then reading "The Silent Season of a Hero" should be mandatory for any sports writer. Gay Talese has the extremely rare ability of making coaches and players interesting. He is even capable of making golf intriguing, which, to my view, is something extraordinary and before reading him, absolutely impossible. In some way, he has the talent to downsize the heroics surrounding sports and let the person behind show up. There's a story behind each one of us. You just have to be patient and be ready for when it appears. He call it "the art of hanging out". I would correct him and say: the art of writing absorbing human journalism. Whether it is the mafia, Frank Sinatra, Selma racial tensions or Joe Di Maggio, Talese is always there, putting into paper real flesh and bone emotions.

Of course, the collection, with almost 40 pieces, is uneven, but it is something that can be really forgotten considering the book is structured on a chronological order. First pieces start dating from 1948, so despite being quite far from the masterpieces you'll read afterwards, you can see a young Talese already showing his range: care for detail, for the glimpse you might miss out if you're not looking properly, and an unparalleled ability to create a bond, an empathy with the character of his piece. In particular with losers.

Defeated boxing champ Floyd Patterson, the troubled Yankees on a forgettable season, the referee Ruby Goldstein, the unknown Jose Torres or the fading myth of Muhammad Ali in the memorable "Ali in Havana". Talese can find a story anywhere. My only complaint about the book is that some of the most memorable pieces were already known, as they were included on the unmissable, absolute MUST-HAVE "Portraits and Encounters", so if you already have that book, the impact will be way lower. If not, go for sportsman's Talese as soon as you can.

SCORE: 7.5/10 (6,25 if you already have "Portraits and Encounters")

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