Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam Passes Away at 73.

Some sad news: David Halberstam died last night.

He was on his way to interview YA Title for a new book he was working on and was blindsided by another car. He was 73 years old. What a shame.

I've read three of Halberstam's books:
Playing for Keeps, The Education of a Coach, and The Breaks of the Game.

He was just a terrific writer. This is going to be said by much smarter people who knew the man and the author much better than me, but he was easily one of the best writers I ever read. He was so good that he made me disappointed in nearly any other sports book I read.

Two things struck me about Halberstam's writing: first, I could come across a random, unattributed paragraph - maybe even just a single sentence - and know without a doubt that Halberstam wrote it. His writing was that distinct and unique. I can't say that about too many other authors.

The other aspect came across after reading an entire book. The attention to detail and tireless reporting he put into his work really showed. His books are filled with these wonderful side stories and digressions from the main point, but they are never without purpose. He had just interviewed his subjects so thoroughly - and so many of them; seriously, look at the acknowledgements in the back of one of his books - that he has so much information to use. But what they end up doing is putting the entire story in terrific context. You remember these little anecdotes after reading the book and through them you remember the larger point Halberstam was trying to make.

I know he won a Pulitzer for his work with the Vietnam War, but I only know him through his sports writing. He wrote about some pretty important things, but sports is my connection to him. If that is all it ever is, then that is good enough for me.

And I hope that I can say I am doing something I loved when I am 73 years old. How many people can say that?

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