Continuing my review of books read in December.
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn. I’m sad to say I knew not of Ms. Flynn until this summer. That’s a shame, as she’s both a Kansas City native and a KU alum. And I only learned of her by chance; while visiting Kansas City there was a feature on her in the Sunday Star that I happened to glance at while digging for the sports page.
This is Flynn’s debut novel; I’ve been trying to get her most recent work but it is constantly checked out at the library. In Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker, a Chicago crime reporter is sent back to her hometown in southeast Missouri to investigate what may be an emerging pattern of serial killings. While in SeMo, she is forced to confront her family, which has loads of buried skeletons that seem to explain her assorted issues. Somewhat predictably the trail leads back to her relatives, although there is a nice twist at the end.
For a first novel, this is a fine book. While not quite as dark, it recalls the work of another KU alum, Daniel Woodrell, who writes about the western side of southern Missouri. Still, it’s spooky and tense and an entertaining read. Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, is supposed to be even better. One day I’ll track it down and see for myself.
Hoosiers: The Fabulous Basketball Life of Indiana – Phillip M. Hoose. I’m somewhat ashamed I haven’t dived into the history of Indiana basketball more in the six-plus years I’ve lived here. Since I’m now a regular basketball correspondent, it seemed like a good time to get to know the local roots a little better.
This is a nice, if not terribly comprehensive overview of the local game. It looks at some of the most famous high school teams in Indiana history – Milan and Crispus Attucks being the obvious inclusions – a chapter on Bob Knight and Gene Keady, one on the emergence of girls basketball, Larry Bird, and Damon Bailey. Interestingly, there is nothing other than casual references to John Wooden.
It’s a decent jumping off point, but I was looking for more detail on the high school game. It’s also dated by the focus on Knight, Keady, and Bailey and its copyright date, which was before the end of single-class basketball.
The Attucks chapter, though, makes the book worth the read. It’s not just an accounting of the first team that was all-black and from Indianapolis to win the state title (behind a young Oscar Robertson), but the many factors that lead to Attucks’ 1955 state title. Factors such as the Klan’s control of Indiana government, the bizarre racial attitudes of the early 1900s, and the fight to allow black high school athletes to compete against whites. It’s one of the many pieces of our history that is flabbergasting to read now, just a couple generations down the road.
VH1’s 100 Greatest Albums. I received this from my mother-in-law for Christmas and raced through it in a night or so. Mini-essays on the top 100 albums in VH1’s countdown from earlier this decade, whoops, last decade. Good stuff.