Thursday, October 10, 2013

Faithful by Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 SeasonFaithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stewart O'Nan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the ninth book in my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, and the only nonfiction. I'd been meaning to read it since it came out in 2005, but I just hadn't been able to make room on my reading list until I signed up for the challenge.

Faithful is written as a series of email exchanges, diary entries, and just plain narratives of the 2004 baseball season, following the Boston Red Sox. Stephen King grew up a fan, but Stewart O'Nan came to it later in life, though he's no less avid for being a Red Sox Nation transplant. He wasn't born a Sox fan, but he got here as quick as he could.

Their sections are easy to tell apart, even without the font changes. Stewart has his superstitions, and an entire family rallying around his project, while Stephen's family is mostly grown up and his wife is spoken of little, except as a tolerant bystander. Stewart likes to relate the play-by-plays, while Stephen's passages are, more often, general musings on baseball fandom, the team itself, and his own agony as a lifelong Sox fan.

I rarely follow baseball minutiae, so a lot of the jargon went over my head. The nicknames for players, the slang or abbreviations for plays, and the references to past rivalries were all lost on me. These details certainly filled the pages and ramped up tension for a baseball season whose ending I already knew, but they weren't illuminating in the least. Had I been less of a Red Sox fan, I would've given up on this book.

I like to think I picked up a couple of things, though, and that what I picked up made me a better fan.

After all the painstaking detail and speculation of the earlier sections, the final parts about the pennant win against the hated Yankees, and then their World Series victory, seemed almost cursory. I didn't feel the excitement of the earlier chapters, and the tension seemed to have been used up. I remember I was ecstatic at the Game 4 pennant win, and my elation only grew with each subsequent victory. I felt little of that from either writer, which was disappointing. Surely they could've captured some excitement, instead of focusing most of their narrative on the tragedies at the Boston celebrations.

If you're a Boston Red Sox fan, and you understand baseball jargon, I think you'd love this book. Because I only fit one of the two criteria, I found it acceptably entertaining, if a bit dry in places.

If I ever decide to reread this, I'll make sure I read Baseball for Dummies or the equivalent, first.

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