Why do I read the books I read? Got my reasons. Three of ’em:
There’s the stuff I read because I should (another turn through The Great Gatsby before that new film comes out), the stuff I pick up to keep up (Freak-o-nomics, Gladwell, et al.), and the stuff that makes its way to the back of the john due to some sort of personal connection.
I’ll never champion one category over another. Gems can be found glittering in all, and it’s a mystic thing how the right book can find the right reader at the right time. Oft heaven sent, me thinks.
Kick Butt touched down in category three. I had the good luck to spend a little time with the author while my special lady was “on the market”, that bizarre combination of auction block and poker tournament that awaits as a final right of passage for grad students done good. More than a few people I ran into mentioned that he’d recently published a novel, and a pretty good one at that.
I’d have to agree. And I don’t even understand football. At all.
Kick Butt, which follows a helluva season with the fictional Morgan University Knights, is sheared from Tom Wolfe’s starched-white cloth. Think a less ambitious Man In Full with a little splash of Charlotte Simmons, tossed into the deep end of southern-style collegiate sports.
Yes, it’s kind of a big deal down there, where the culture-clash still simmers between antebellum royalty and carpet-bagging Yankees, between black and white, rich and poor. ‘Tis football that blessedly binds them all.
And’s got me too? There’s a great quote before Chapter 15 that points to the fact that the sports metaphor is now not only the indispensable crutch of daily conversation, it has metastasized into the central conceit of our American existence. It is our shared cultural touchstone: what Homer was to the Ancients, the Church to the Middle Ages. Sports are the shorthand for our noble quests, our battles between good and evil, between the self and a sacrifice to a higher call. Go team!
Perhaps that’s why I found the whole thing so relatable, despite the opaque scoring mechanisms and inscrutable tactics employed on the field. Did I mention I don’t have a scrap of smarts about football?
I only wish that it ran another hundred pages long. There are plenty of interesting second-string characters begging to get back on the field, and a lot of loose ends which I’d enjoy seeing tied up, or maybe just strung out a little more.
Perhaps there’s a sequel in the works? A Kick Butter?