16 Booklist September 15, 2015 www.booklistreader.com
able story of this complex, combative, and
passionate art champion and innovator, who
weathered misogyny, anti-Semitism, betrayal,
and her own demons to help build an audience for modern art. —Donna Seaman
Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die:
James Dean’s Final Hours.
By Keith Elliot Greenberg.
Sept. 2015. 286p. illus. Applause, paper, $24.99
According to this very insightful new book
about James Dean, the actor once said,“If I
live to be a hundred, there will be time to
do everything I want.” Well, he didn’t make
it even halfway, thanks to the car crash that
killed him in 1955 at 24. But his three
films—Giant, East of Eden, and Rebel without a Cause—were enough to make him the
quintessential cult hero, whose influence on
pop culture has been astonishingly broad.
Greenberg recaps the short life and career,
while tracing his own steps in trying to sort
truth from legend. He also zeroes in on the
final hours of Dean’s life, showing us, as much
as it’s possible to do so, what the young man
might have been thinking and feeling just before his life ended. It would have been easy to
make this a cheap exploitation quickie—
publication is timed to coincide with the sixtieth
anniversary of Dean’s death—but Greenberg
clearly has too much respect and affection for
the actor to take that route. For Dean’s legion
of fans, he provides a moving look at a man
who died well before his time. —David Pitt
Sports & Recreation
Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams
at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts.
By Doug Merlino.
Oct. 2015. 272p. illus. Bloomsbury, $26 (9781620401552);
e-book, $17.99 (9781620401569). 796.8071.
For two years, journalist and author Mer-
Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and
lino ( The Hustle, 2010) followed the lives of
four aspiring fighters, and here he shares that
experience in an intimate
portrayal of the world of
mixed martial arts (MMA).
Not only does he report on
training, traveling, and shar-
ing meals with the fighters,
he also examines the psyche
of the individual fighters
and the more general moti-
vations that drive men and women into such
a brutal sport. The four fighters—Mirsad
Bektic, a Bosnian refugee raised in Nebraska;
Jeff Monson, a 41-year-old anarchist loved
in Russia; Steve Mocco, an Olympic wres-
tler looking for success in MMA; and Daniel
Straus, an ex-con battling long odds for suc-
cess—all share details of their past and present
lives. Throughout the narrative, Merlino
chronicles the history and rise of the Ultimate
Fighting Championship. Told in a candid and
nicely flowing conversational tone, this story
will certainly appeal to MMA followers but
may also attract a broader range of sports fans,
in the manner of John Feinstein’s similar days-
in-the-life accounts. The best of the growing
collection of MMA literature. —Craig Clark
YA: The accessible tone and in-depth look
at an increasingly popular sport make this
a sure bet for teen followers of MMA. CC.
the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons.
By Michael Witwer.
Oct. 2015. 320p. illus. Bloomsbury, $26
Tribal: College Football and the
(9781632862792); e-book (9781632862044). 794.8.
In the world of gaming, Gary Gygax (1938–
2008) is a legend—and for good reason. Along
with his partner (later his bitter enemy), Dave
Arneson, Gygax invented Dungeons & Drag-
ons, the granddaddy of role-playing games.
This enthusiastic book tracks Gygax’s life from
his childhood as a fan of sf/fantasy and games
of all kinds, through his years as a game design-
er and publisher, his legal battles over control
of TSR (the company he founded in the early
1970s), and his post-D&D years. For fans of
role-playing games, and D&D specifically,
the book is required reading. But there is one
caveat: the text is a mixture of real events and
dialogue, along with re-created and/or imag-
ined scenes. For some moments in Gygax’s life,
Witwer tells us, there is no documentation, no
way of knowing exactly who said what. Rather
than skim over these moments, he has filled in
the gaps creatively, providing us with scenes
that are more fiction than fact. This technique
will not be greeted with applause in most quar-
ters, but, taken as an imaginative blend of fact
and, well, fan fiction, the book will surely in-
trigue gamers of a certain age. —David Pitt
YA: Dungeons & Dragons still has a teen
following, and, for the truly committed,
this unorthodox account of the game’s
creator will likely hold interest. DP.
Secret Heart of America.
By Diane Roberts.
Oct. 2015. 256p. Harper, $25.99 (9780062342621).
Roberts, who attended and teaches at Florida
State University, here nips the hand that feeds
her by reporting her conflicted relationship
with the sport of college football, which she has learned to
love and hate on the campus
of the Seminoles, regularly
a contender for the national
championship. “The United
States is the only nation sufficiently deranged,” she writes,
“to make a life-and-death
matter of college sports,” and she covers with
telling wit the history of dramatic and often
violent rivalries (among fans as well as players).
She deals with the connection of football and
Christianity as well as with gender issues, race,
and the culture of the South. She is transpar-
ent: “I knew I was a Seminole before I knew
I was white or a Presbyterian, or even a girl,”
but she does not cover up FSU’s involvement in
shenanigans and worse, much worse, including
sexual assault and shoplifting charges against its
recent star quarterback, Jameis Winston. A gift-
ed writer, she is rightly outraged by the sport
and her school’s links with some of the uglier
aspects of American life, but she truly adores
the ’Noles (even participating in their pseudo-
Indian chanting). Most readers will share her
ambivalence while thoroughly enjoying her
take on a troubled sport. —Mark Levine
Hemingway in Love: His Own Story.
By A. E. Hotchner.
Oct. 2015. 176p. illus. St. Martin’s, $19.99
(9781250077486); e-book, $9.99 (9781466889484).
Readers could take Hemingway pal Hotchner at his word that this book, like his memoir,
Papa Hemingway (1965), is based on a series
of recorded conversations. Or they could engage Hemingway’s recommended BS detector.
Either way, what we have here is a recasting of
Hemingway’s emotional journey through life,
especially the longtime regret over busting
up his first marriage to Hadley Richardson
Hemingway, the subject of Paula McLain’s
popular novel, The Paris Wife (2011). Coming at a time when the popular culture is full
of stories of Hemingway’s wives (he had four),
Hotchner’s inquiry expands upon Hemingway’s confession regarding Hadley, “I wished
I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.”
While Hotchner’s apparent use of Hemingway’s letters to inform his “dialogues” has
been the subject of past permissions battles,
he says he based this account on visits with
Hemingway throughout the 1950s and up
to a few days before the great American author put a shotgun to his own head in 1961.
Hotchner’s account is freighted with nostalgia
and sadness on several levels. —Steve Paul
A House of My Own: Stories from
By Sandra Cisneros.
Oct. 2015. 400p. illus. Knopf, $28.95 (9780385351331).
By gathering together more than 40 essays
and musings written for various occasions and
undertakings between 1984 and 2014, Cisneros, beloved author of the
novels The House on Mango
Street (1984) and Caramelo
(2002), has created her
first work of nonfiction,
a patchwork-quilt memoir
resplendent with one hundred color photographs. Her
reflections on houses she’s
lived in and the meaning of home form a
unifying motif, along with accounts of her
early struggle to envision a way forward as
a self-described “American Mexican” and
“working-class writer.” Cisneros chronicles
with profound insights and striking detail
family abodes in Chicago and Mexico City,