Book bits

Haiku about baseball, three books about movie stars, and readers' picks.

Baseball Haiku, edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura

Once, while I was on the Internet looking for something else entirely, I stumbled onto a site of baseball haiku written by Red Sox fans. I still remember my favorite:

Leaves turn golden brown.
Shadows lengthen.
Red Sox begin to lose.

(This was, of course, before the 2004 season.) But I had no idea, until I came across Baseball Haiku edited by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, how many poets (other than Red Sox fans) practice baseball haiku as a serious art form. A Japanese poet wrote the first baseball haiku in 1890 and his countrymen have continued to this day, producing achy, evocative gems such as:

summer grass
baseball players far off
in the distance


a night game's
bright lights across
the great river.

In the United States, the author of the first known baseball haiku was none other than bad-boy beat writer Jack Kerouac. Sometime around 1958 he penned:

Empty baseball field
– A robin,
Hops along the bench.

"Baseball Haiku" includes the work of some of the top Japanese and North American practitioners of this unusual art form. In the book's introduction, van den Heuvel explains why "haiku and baseball were made for each other: while haiku give us moments in which nature is linked to human nature, baseball is played in the midst of the natural elements – on a field under an open sky...."

Japanese writers adhere more closely to traditional haiku requirements than do Americans, but both weave a magic that beautifully compresses field and sky into tiny syllabic vessels:

the ball sky-high
as the crack of the bat
reaches the outfield.

Any fan will recognize that.

Marjorie Kehe

Three books about movie stars

When she left her Swedish husband for Italian director Roberto Rossellini she created a scandal that rocked the world and nearly ended her career.

Author Charlotte Chandler tells Bergman's story in Ingrid Bergman: A Personal Biography, drawing on a rich body of interviews with Bergman herself and also with Rossellini, Bergman's children, and fellow stars, including Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, and Alfred Hitchcock.

If you tend to think of Grace Kelly as a princess – gracious, serene, and just a bit cool – True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess by Wendy Leigh may hold some surprises. Leigh (who also wrote a biography of John F. Kennedy Jr.) is a diligent researcher who compiles a sympathetic but troubled portrait of Kelly as a woman hungry for male attention throughout the course of an often lonely life. (Among the unhappy surprises: Kelly hated life in Monaco.)

In an interesting blend of self-help book and star biography, novelist Karen Karbo seeks to extract lessons from the life of Katherine Hepburn. How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great is a fun and spunky take on the life of the star that may well end up convincing its female readers to don trousers, shun makeup, and refuse to take orders from men.

– M.K.

Book lust for kids

No parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or doting neighbor will want to be without it.Nancy Pearl, Seattle librarian extraordinaire, already beloved by readers everywhere for Book Lust and More Book Lust, has turned her attention to young readers.

In Book Crush, Pearlsuggests more than 1,000 best reads for kids. She presents 118 lists,divided into age-appropriate categories (youngest, middle, and teen),under headings ranging from "Ah, those adorable anthropomorphicanimals" to "What'd I do to deserve this biography?"

At the same time, anyone interested in organizing a book club for young readers can look to The Kids' Book Club Book,by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, which serves up everything fromrecipes to discussion topics to reading lists. Moms hoping to bond withtheir daughters over books can try The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Shireen Dodson for true stories, organizational advice, and yet more reading lists.

– M.K.

Readers' picks

Suite Française by Irène Némirovksy, a novel about the German occupation of France during World War II. The richness of the writing, the detail, the characterizations and descriptions, remind me of "The Kite Runner."
Kate Belt, Portland, Ore.

I just finished Infidel and learned new views of Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an inspiring person totally dedicated to an important goal – freeing Muslim women and their daughters from oppression.
Kent MacKay Rollo, Glasgow, Scotland

Serendipity led me to Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. A dive into Japanese noir hard-boiled detective/cyberpunk examination of consciousness. I read this just after finishing David Whyte's Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. A seemingly strange combination, but both ask you to question identity and self.
Dan Sibo, Laingsburg, Mich.

I just finished Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut about a man who succumbs to mental illness and believes the writings of a failed science-fiction writer to be true. In one of the best parts of the book the writer reads "What is the purpose of life?" written on a bathroom wall. The writer answers, "To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool." That's the best answer I've ever read to that question, and it made the book for me.
Steven Frost, Pasadena, Md.

In Cork Boat by John Pollack, a former Congressional (and later presidential) speechwriter, tells us how he built a boat that can actually be rowed and sailed out of discarded and donated wine corks. Accomplishing his lifelong dream was no simple task and is great fun to read about.
Anita Alvarez Williams, Boulevard, Calif.

What are you reading? Write and tell us at Marjorie Kehe.

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