Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Review Lite

We have a charming custom in our family which expects that a book given as a present has been read by the giver. It's one of the perks. With most books, it is better to refrain from reviewing until the receiver has actually read the book.

I sent Ben Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley, a memoir of a reasonably well-spoken, marginal NBA player over three years. He plays in Russia, Greece, and Spain as well as the CBA and ABA before finally holding down an NBA spot for longer than training camp.

It's not life-changing, but it is entertaining. Shirley writes with that wiseacre Dave Barry style that seems to have become standard for youthful humor writing, and he does it reasonably well. As Benjamin has much the same style, it sometimes felt as if it were Ben writing it. Very nice for me. The book is at times laugh-out-loud funny.

I wonder if Dave Barry is going to become the default writing style for bright young men of this generation?

Shirley does have a lot of the requisite social and religious beliefs of a young wiseass, but he also seems able to make his own observations and draw his own conclusions when he has his own data, rather than what he has picked up from all those smart people who live outside of basketball. By the end it is clear that he is a bit undersocialized, which is unexpected for a person that well-traveled with that broad an experience for a young man. But he has mostly met people connected with basketball, plus the rich people of poor countries who own basketball teams, and the foreigners who like basketball players. He hasn't interacted with average Americans outside his own family as much as one would expect.

In the basketball world, he is unusual and somewhat isolated by his intelligence - he at one point has to settle a dispute among players how many American states there are, as there was a strong contingent believing it was 52 instead of 50 - and this adds to his smartass attitude, which weakens the book slightly.

Interesting world we live in. Paul Shirley is one of the 500 best basketball players in the world but is considered mediocre. He is nowhere near the 500th-best writer or 500th-smartest person in the world but he publishes a book and develops a reputation as a bright young man.

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