Friday, August 06, 2004

Dave Bidini 

Cottage/beach reading. Some people read Tom Clancy. Some read Stephen King. Others read Danielle Steel.

I read sports books, especially baseball books.

While, like most, I strive to read quality literature and non fiction whenever I can, often you just feel like a ripping yarn. Luckily, the two qualities aren't mutually exclusive. In the field of sports books, baseball tends to lend itself the best to the literate approach.

During last weekend's visit to the cottage, I dove into Dave Bidini's latest, Baseballissimo: My Summer in the Italian Minor Leagues. Bidini, of course, is the rhythm guitarist for the Rheostatics, and author of two previous books: On a Cold Road and Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places.

I read Tropic of Hockey last year and enjoyed the mixture of hockey story, travelogue,and personal hockey history. I thought that the literary style was occasionally strained and overblown relative to the subject matter, but by and large it was one of the best hockey books I've read. Granted, that may sound like faint praise given the scarcity of good hockey non-fiction (fiction too, for that matter), but it's not meant as such. I really enjoyed Bidini's story, and his style in telling it. While he treats the sport, and his experience, with great significance, he keeps the mood light by never taking himself too seriously. Tropic of Hockey is the rare book which is both very funny and insightful.

So it was with great expectations that I dug into Baseballissimo, Bidini's account of his summer in Nettuno, Italy, following the Serie B Nettuno Peones. The mix of sports story (the Peones season), travelogue (his adventures in language and travel in Italy), and personal experience (both as a baseball/Jays fan and in growing up Italian) remain from Tropic. The structure works even better in Baseballissimo. Even the literary style that went periodically into metaphorical overdrive in Tropic, works more comfortably when applied to baseball's (and Italy's) rich history. And of course Bidini is as funny as ever.

Just as I'd heartily recommend Tropic of Hockey to any hockey fan, I recommend Baseballissimo even more heartily to any baseball fan.