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Tuesday, April 13, 2021
1. What are you currently reading? The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood by Jane Leavy. Yes, this book is about baseball. That's why I picked it up! It's April, and all I want to think about is the crack of the bat and a ball sailing through the sky. And this biography of one of the game's greatest delivers with plenty of onfield heroics. Mickey Mantle remains justifiably famous for playing hurt and still coming through with the big hit when it when it was needed most. Looked at through today's sabermetrics, Leavy confirms that Mantle was truly a cut above and The Mick richly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Babe and Joltin' Joe.
What Leavy puts forth in her intro and delivers on throughout is something unexpected and poignant. Mantle was in many ways Elvis' opposite-but-equal. The blond ballplayer with the toothy grin came of age at almost the same time as dark haired rocker with the sexy sneer. They were both ridiculously gifted and both cracked under the pressure of iconography, giving into excess (women and drugs for Elvis, women and booze for Mickey). They died as shocking parodies of themselves (Fat Elvis, Skeletal Mickey).
And yet, as Leavy also admits, it doesn't matter. Baseball fans still love Mickey Mantle and his memorabilia is worth more at auction than any other major leaguer's, just as tens of thousands of fans still visited Graceland, even during a pandemic.
So far I'm loving this book. It's a compassionate look at an American hero, what we expected of him, what he delivered in spades, and where he came up short (and why).
2. What did you recently finish reading? Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross. This is book #1 in a new series by the author of the popular Maine Clambake Series. It ticks all the boxes that qualify it as a cozy mystery.
• Female heroine/amateur sleuth: Jane is both. Retired from a long career with the phone company, she is getting bored. Her friend recognizes her abilities as a diplomat and problem solver and recommends her for a job at a senior living facility. Where, most unexpectedly, she finds herself involved with a murder.
• Murder in a tight-knit community: Soon after Jane arrives at Walden Pond Senior Living, someone gets dead. Which of the residents did it? Or could it have been one of the staff? The author amusingly compares the denizens of the retirement village to the cliquish students and faculty of a high school.
• Sex and violence take place out of view: The sex is gossiped about but not detailed (nothing escapes the Walden Pond grapevine). The murders are discovered after the fact. (OOPS! I just let slip that there was a second murder!)
• The murderer's motive is easily understandable: Remember how Son of Sam maintained he killed because his neighbor's dog told him to? You won't find any such nutsy bananas here at Walden Pond. The possible motives the author dangles before us are relateable: lust, greed or revenge.
It did have a message that elevated it above many books in the genre: No one is all bad. Or, as my minister likes to remind us, it's wrong to judge someone's entire life by their worst moment, no matter how bad that moment might be.
Taken on its cozy mystery terms, I enjoyed it and may return to solve more murders with Jane Darrowfield.
3. What will read next? I don't know.