As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.
Since we were just given the last minute opportunity to feature an exciting author, we are inserting a bonus post this month featuring Nicholas Dawidoff, author of Collision Low Crossers: A Year inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football, among other works. (This book was extremely well reviewed by Mark Leibovich for the New York Times last month.) Mr. Dawidoff also writes for The New Yorker and has been a Guggenheim, Civitella Ranieri and Anschutz distinguished fellow. He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn.
Mr. Dawidoff will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 22nd to discuss Collision Low Crossers. As part of his research, for an entire year he lived with the New York Jets, from early-morning quarterback meetings to edgy late-night conversations. He had a security code, a locker, and a desk in the scouting department. As a special treat during his Norwich Bookstore visit, Mr. Dawidoff will be joined by Tom Powers, his friend and mentor, who will interview him on the process of investigative reporting for this book and how he was able to gain access to the Jets.
Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your seat.
1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?
Most of every NFL game is “played” during the week in private team facilities where coaches create and then teach the game plan to their players. These game plans are complex and remain forever secret outside the team, so the essence of the sport is inaccessible to those who watch it. Furthermore, the game as played live is so fast that the nuances are difficult to follow. That players wear masks is one of many more features of the sport that has created a distancing effect. Football is now the single most popular entertainment in America, and yet those who watch it don’t really see it. These are also among the reasons that football, in contrast to the more intimate sport of baseball, has always been a challenging subject for writers. By all but living with an NFL team, I hoped to bring people who liked football–and people who might–closer to this big, mysterious public spectacle.
As I just wrote in the latest of the weekly New Yorker essays about football that I’ve been contributing to the magazine leading up to the Super Bowl, the most insightful books about the game are not really football books per se.
- A football team has many familial elements (surrogate) and so Ian Frazier’s wonderful study of America through the prism of his own forebears, Family, was often on my mind as I wrote.
- Planning a football game is an immersive, time-consuming, often-frustrating creative act, and the book that most captures the experiences of those game-planning NFL coaches I knew as they sought to build something they considered tactically beautiful was James Lord’s account of having his likeness painted by one of the world’s great artists–A Giacometti Portrait.
- Finally, John Williams’ vivid study of buffalo hunters on the Kansas and Colorado prairies, Butcher’s Crossing, is a classic American novel that captures many qualities of football from the earned intuition necessary to master an arduous and risky landscape to the book’s penetrating reflections on the nature of profound failure.
- When I began my project, the consensus would be that the best football book ever written was George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, which came out fifty years ago. Paper Lion remains a timeless book because it teems with portraits of interesting people who are placed in tension-filled and often very funny moments of narrative conflict.
2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?
So many! Who wouldn’t want to pun with Shakespeare (and once and for all prove that he alone did it all?!) Who wouldn’t want to share, well, tea, with Virginia Woolf (and tell her, in the most deferential way, that all was not lost, she’d soon mean so much to many readers, perhaps especially women like my own mother.) Coffee in a thermos aboard a river raft with Twain? (Tom Sawyer remains among my favorite books.) Coffee (with a little snort of bourbon splashed in) with Faulkner? How to decide? Okay! I choose Samuel Johnson in an eighteenth century London coffeehouse. Not only was he the greatest non-fiction prose writer of his time, he remains (because of Boswell’s Life of Johnson) literature’s peerless conversationalist. And there’s even slim possibility that this most humane of writers would enjoy it. As he said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone.”
3. What books are currently on your bedside table?