Pete Rose on League of Denial
What has troubled me since finishing comprehensive look at the ongoing battle among neuropathologists, the National Football League, and the families of retired and deceased NFL players, written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, is not so much what I learned from the book, but my continued interest in the sport. The NFL’s ongoing denial of the concussion crisis bears resemblance to Big Tobacco’s stonewalling of lung cancer research, and I personally find smoking abhorrent. So why do I continue to watch game after game of the NFL, even while knowing that players are out there killing each other? The sport is arguably more popular than it’s ever been. As a society, are we no different than the Romans watching gladiatorial battles in the Colosseum — just with a high-definition experience?
Ruth Horazeck on Kavalier Clay
This is the first piece by Chabon that I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. Graphic novels tend to exist on the fringes of the literary world, which is a shame because they often contain an unparallelled level of political, cultural and historical criticism. Watchmen, Persopolis and Maus are the obvious examples. What I find so interesting about this book is that it combines historical fiction and graphic novel by getting into the psyche of a graphic artist, trying to come to terms with the world around him through his own art and creativity.
The story follows two young Jewish boys who emigrate to New York before the start of WWII and begin writing and illustrating their own adventure stories in the hopes of piggybacking the recent success of the Superman franchise. As the book moves on the protagonists become increasingly frustrated at their inability to affect change in any type of meaningful way in the wake of the war. As plans to smuggle family members out of Europe fail, these frustrations come through in their work.
I love this story for a couple of reasons. First the protagonists are very young so you see the world through the eyes of people who are still emotionally on fire and think that they can change the world. Second, it explores the idea of superheroes in a world where superheroes are desperately needed but simply don’t exist.