Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Off the Bookshelf

JULY 5, 1999: 

Ultimate Sports Lists by Mike Meserole, DK Publishing, $17.95 paper

They're the kind of questions that keep sports fans up at night: Who is the tallest man to play in the NBA? What NFL team holds the record for the longest losing streak? What Division I school has the oldest basketball arena? Well, stir no more! The answers to these burning questions are just the tip of the information iceberg in Ultimate Sports Lists. Mike Meserole, a former ESPN writer and producer, has complied this barstool gambler's dream: a listing of the best and worst of just about everything sports-related. Meserole's book goes way beyond the big three of baseball, football, and basketball to offer juicy nuggets on sports from figure skating to international soccer; from golf to horse racing. There are even tidbits on money and the media. Want to know who the country's richest pro-sports owner is? How about the top-grossing sports movie of all time? Admit it. You do. And it's all here in this compendium that is as addictive as ballpark peanuts. --Lisa Tozzi

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler, Washington Square Press, $14 paper

When a longtime friend and rival, now a renowned man of letters, writes an autobiography that disparages him, the cantankerous Barney Panofsky takes it upon himself to set the record straight by transcribing his own account of his life over the past several decades. The result is the absolute funniest book I've read in many years. With a scathing wit and an often brilliant sense of satire, the Canadian-born and bred Richler, in his 10th novel, has a field day lambasting a wide array of sacred cows and absurdities that help to make up our postmodern world. An intriguing subtext that flows through the book concerns the passage of time and its tendency to alter our perception of events and, indeed, our acceptance and appreciation of the arts and letters. In many ways, Barney's Version is also a Jewish novel that, if only as a given, addresses the ubiquitious issue of assimilation into a gentile world. --Jay Trachtenberg

Run Catch Kiss: A Gratifying Novel by Amy Sohn, Simon & Schuster, $23 hard

It's summer and you should be reading something trashy. Or pointless. On that note, Run Catch Kiss is double platinum gold. It's a novel about a 22-year-old actress/writer who, um, writes a novel about having lots of sex. So have at it -- but first, consider yourself warned: There's nothing new or brilliant or deeply funny going on with this particular Slutty Grrl Who Tries to Make It Big in the Big City. Run Catch Kiss is painfully self-aware. In fact, the story's so ready to be "optioned," it might as well have come with the author's contact information, so that a grateful Hollywood would know where to send the check. Rev up your beach towel and enjoy. --Stuart Wade

Plays Well With Others by Allan Gurganus, Vintage, $14 paper

Allan Gurganus' Plays Well With Others throws back the travestied sensationalism of the AIDS epidemic with sardonic humor, flamboyant details, and stylish excess that somehow works. At the wise old age of 33, Hartley Mims Jr. arrives in Manhattan in 1980 armed with adolescent invincibility and hedonistic passion. He lusts after and befriends two fellow spirits: Christopher Christian Gustufson, a classical composer and bi-sex object extraordinaire, and Angie "Alabama" Burns, a gifted modernist painter who embodies all that is both decadent and virtuous about female sexuality. For all of them, work is play and play is work. Nothing is sublimated to sex and pleasure, and nothing is too sacred for their overly eroticized psyches. Within the primitive time frame of "Before," "After," and "After After," Gurganus dilutes the narrative structure into vignettes that at times sound eulogistic and poetic, epistolary and didactic. Yet meaningful friendship and valiant character evolve as the ominous darkness of a deadly but unnamed force makes its way into their lives.--Annine Miscoe

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