Monday, July 09, 2007

What I'm Reading: Slouching Toward Fargo

It seems Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner is not a man to let an honest story get in the way of good petty personal grudge. In 1996, still rankling over the way he was fictionalized in Bill Murray's 1980 movie, Where the Buffalo Roam, Wenner gave recently divorced, ex-Newsweek, ex-Rolling Stone, freelance — which is to say, "broke and unemployed" — writer Neal Karlen a contract, in the Mafia sense of the word, to do a hatchet job on Murray and his minor league baseball team, the St. Paul Saints.

Instead, what Karlen wound up writing was this terrific book:

I'm trying to figure out how to describe this one without using all of the usual book review superlatives. It's funny; it's at times quite bawdy and at other times deeply moving; it's full of unforgettable characters who have the added virtue of being real; and most importantly of all, it's not the usual dumb jock hagiography. This is a book about redemption, on both the professional and spiritual levels, and as much about Karlen himself as about the team. You'll come out of this one with a whole new appreciation of Bill Murray, a profound sense of the tragedy that's been the story of Darryl Strawberry, and a whole new sort-of-almost respect for all those wannabes, has-beens, and never-weres who struggle on in the bargain basement of the minor leagues, trying to find that one big hit that will help them break through and make it into the big time. (Which makes them seem an awful lot like writers, come to think of it.)

If you're looking for a good summer read: highly recommended.