In typical Yankee fashion we're only into the second month of our book club and already controversy is swirling.
Many of us were disappointed by the first book discussion, so I'm going to try to impose a little more structure to this discussion. I'm going to include part of the lecture I'll be giving to my students later this afternoon in English 202:
Some thoughts after the jump.
1. Michael Sokolove's thesis seemed two-fold: he believes that a class division within the normal racial division made sports seem like the most likely avenue for a young man to move up, and at the same time he believes that our celebrity culture is corrosive to the dedication and self-control necessary become a sports star.
While I love the sociology work he does defining the culture of L.A. in the '70s, I wonder how the celebrity culture could ever be different. Every town unreasonably elevates its promising youth, especially its sports stars. An 18 year old with a bright future is a credit to the community, makes the community feel better about itself- 'maybe I'm stuck here, but if there are kids who can succeed there's still hope.' It's provincial, but it's true.
2. I'm struck by the air of tragedy that Sokolove infuses into the early narrative. Maybe it's because he doesn't want to get caught up in the easier "American Dream/ up by the bootstraps" narrative. There are several points were I have trouble telling if he's writing about high schoolers playing baseball or about Oedipus. He writes:
Their opponent John Elway, a golden boy from suburbia, had been equal to the moment, worthy of Dodger Stadium. The Boys of Crenshaw, for all their bravado, were not as ready as they believed.
Because the major players in the book are still alive (and still have the chance to do something meaningful and wonderful with their lives) could Sokolove have take a less definitive tone? I wonder if he overvalued success at baseball, rather than success at life?
3. I like his portrait of Darryl because Sokolove first establishes Darryl's place on the team- not the most talented or the team leader- and then begins to flesh out some of Strawberry's character. When I read about Strawberry's inability to seperate himself from his hangers-on, and how that has become a lesson for the next generation of superstars, I wonder if Darryl didn't simply have the misfortune of being born after the reserve claus was struck down.
If Darryl had earned less money (and less easy fame) might his story have turned out better? Or is Sokolove's tragic tone right; because his gifts were so natural, was Strawberry doomed to implode regardless of the setting?