Absolutely. The book is a very interesting thought experiment that explores the interplay between gender, power and fear. And the criticism of the book is almost as interesting to explore as the book itself.
The "historical notes" at the end were an extremely interesting explanation for why the novel is structured as non-linearly as it is.
I grew up loving football. I played football in high school. I went nuts over fantasy football, joining multiple leagues and spending hours a week following the NFL. I was happy.
Then it began to feel weird. I saw these huge hits and felt shame rather than exhilaration. I watched owners get rich on the backs of countless players who wrecked their bodies - not the superstars, the third string linemen, the grunts. All of a sudden, the game I had loved for so long felt dirty and wrong.
I could never put all I was feeling into an argument as cogent and compelling as Against Football. Steve Almond, on the other hand, presents a provocative case against football - mainly the NFL, but touching on college and high school football as well.
You might get to the end of this book and think that Almond is full of shit, that he's whining about a game that bring joy to millions of people every fall. You might think that he blows a lot of stuff out of proportion. That's fantastic, and a totally valid opinion.
What's not valid is shutting your ears whenever someone speaks out against the game you love. This stuff is complicated. It's emotional. If you care about football enough to read this review, you owe it to yourself to be informed. Personally, I couldn't morally reconcile being an NFL fan any more. I've quit my fantasy football leagues. I don't watch games any more. I try not to patronize the major sponsors of the NFL.
I made my call. You should make yours.
Those looking for a narratively driven book should look elsewhere. You're not always going to know exactly what's happening in Wolf in White Van. It's a book that is mainly concerned with establishing a portrait of an incredible character through mood and feeling. The result is disconcerting at times, compelling the whole way through, and liable to stick with you long after it's over. Darnielle's narration is pretty incredible and great, not surprising if you know his performance work. If you like The Mountain Goats and what Darnielle conveys through his music, you're gonna love this book.
Very good story and writing, although I agree with some reviewers that the end was disappointing. The end is not really the point with a book like this, though.
Both narrators are a true joy. I hope they find lots of work based on their amazing work on Eleanor & Park.
I've seen other reviewers compare Tropper to Jonathan Franzen. The only similarity I see is that they both write about dysfunctional families. While Tropper is a good writer, the insight that comes through his words is nowhere near that of Franzen.
That said, if you go into this book not looking for Jonathan Franzen Jr., it's a very pleasant listen. The narrative propels forwards at a good clip, mostly thanks to the fact that it takes place in a structured seven-day window. You get to know the characters well, and Tropper finds something redeeming in just about everyone.
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