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« July, 2009 »
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Really mixed feelings about this one. The story itself is interesting. It’s actually about TWO men who love books, one is a rare book dealer and one is a rare book theif. The story concerns the times where their lives cross. The author has personal conversations with both of them, often, over many years. The dealer is more likeable (to me) than the thief, but the author seems sort of entranced with both of them. This is where the story sort of falls apart, to me. She’s so interested in getting the scoop from the thief that she gets into the classic reporter’s dilemma, knowing the guy is continuing to steal books and sort of shrugging in a “what can you do?” way

Personally I felt that she didn’t do more about the thief’s thievery because she knew she didn’t have a story if he went to jail and stayed there. The guy stole hundreds of credit card numbers that he used to purchase rare books from dealers sight unseen and then would have an accomplice go pick them up or sometimes go get the books himself. He left a trail of credit card fraud and ill will among rare book dealers (I was hoping for more about libraries, but there’s not much of that in this book). It was sort of neat to understand how he did this, but very frustrating to get to the end of the book and realize he was still doing it and seemed like he’d continue to do it. Maybe my frustration got in the way of me appreciating this book more. There is a lot of interesting side discussion with rare book dealers and the police, and a little about the books themselves. Upshot: the author injects herself into this story too much for my personal tastes and since I didn’t ultimately find her insights that interesting, I didn’t like the book as much as I might have.

Among the Thugs

This was a spooky little airplane read. Bill Buford is a journalism who becomes curious about what goes into football violence and follows teams of football hooligans -- or as he continually refers to them, “supporters -- to some matches and describes the violence he witnesses there. There’s an element of voyeurism, tagging along with him, similar to My War Gone By. Buford is simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the extreme and senseless violence that he witnesses at these matches. The book is more a set of described matches than it is a real cohesive narrative on the larger topics. Buford goes to matches, follows hooligans on package tours and attends a National Front birthday party. The whole time he’s sort of trying to integrate himself with the instigators of these events and is only partially successful.

This book is at its best when describing the things that happens and how they start and progress from simple organized cheering and assembly into the flashpoint violence where suddenly there is destruction and apalling behavior. I found Buford sort of an unreliable narrator, simultaneously trying to be a journalist with some level of detachment and also claiming to be horrified at seeing what was happening with the people who he was hanging out with. There was a sense in which I felt he was saying "well what can you do, this was going to happen anyhow” and then disavowing responsibility for the events because he was there reporting on them, while at the same time commenting on the media spectacle created. Worth reading, btu I’d really like an updated “where are we now, regarding hooligan violence?” book, preferably written by someone else.