Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dispatches from the Sporting Life by Mordecai Richler

Dispatches from the Sporting Life (1960-2000/ Collected 2002) by Mordecai Richler: Enjoyable, uneven collection of sports essays nearly spanning the late, great, irate Canadian's entire writing career. The bulk of the essays date from the early 1960's to the mid-1980's. There's a sloppiness to the volume that's a bit annoying -- the book omits the original publication information for many of the pieces in favour of their first book publication info, leaving the reader to figure out when they were first published from internal evidence. 

The best pieces (surprise!) concern hockey, and include a lengthy piece on the early 1980's Montreal Canadiens, a profile of Gordie Howe (Amway salesman!), and a profile of Wayne Gretzky c. 1985 (to Richler, Gretzky is stunningly boring as a person). Some pieces, even long ones, seem to have been dashed off without much editing. For the record, Richler loves hockey, baseball, and snooker. He doesn't have much time for football, American or otherwise. 

Reminiscences of Jewish life in 1940's and 1950's Montreal abound. And Richler's contentious piece that floats his theory that a fear of anti-Semitic backlash caused Jewish baseball star Hank Greenberg to stop at 58 home runs is as odd and unsourced today as it was when published in the 1960's; letters rebuking Richler's thesis appear as well with the essay. Recommended.

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