Short Takes

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

March 22, 2014 

Nonfiction

Bigger Than the Game: Restitching a Major League Life

Dirk Hayhurst, Citadel, 320 pages

Being a major league baseball player isn’t particularly fun.

Oh, it’s a grand existence if you’re, say, Derek Jeter or David Wright: The money is big, the endorsement opportunities are ceaseless, the fans know your name.

Behind the stars, however, are men who jump from team to team and live paycheck to paycheck, just hoping to grab a final roster spot and a fat per diem check.

Men like Dirk Hayhurst, former player for the Durham Bulls, who went on to pitch, briefly, for the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays.

Not much was remarkable about a pitching career that spanned eight years, and included only a couple of cups of coffee in the majors. Yet, Hayhurst’s story – which he chronicles with both humor and heartache in “Bigger Than the Game” – is worth telling.

Newsday

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade

Walter Kirn, Liveright, 272 pages

Walter Kirn’s new profile of the serial liar and convicted murderer known as “Clark Rockefeller” is no ordinary work of true crime and literary journalism.

“Blood Will Out” is the chronicle of Kirn’s ill-fated friendship with the con man. And it’s surely one of most honest, compelling and strangest books about the relationship between a writer and his subject ever penned by an American scribe.

Kirn is a magazine writer and author of novels such as “Up in the Air” and “Thumbsucker.” But he was an insecure and not especially successful writer when he met “Clark” in 1998. The faux Rockefeller was a preppy bon vivant who claimed to be estranged from his famous family. A mutual friend asked Kirn to do Clark a favor – deliver a semi-paralyzed dog from Montana, where Kirn was living, to Clark’s home in Manhattan.

Unbeknown to Kirn, “Clark Rockefeller” was the latest in a series of identities adopted by German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter. As Clark, Gerhartsreiter hid his Bavarian roots behind a genteel, patrician accent and stories of his jet-setting lifestyle. Kirn, a son of working-class Midwesterners, was smitten. Like many an ambitious writer, he thought the charismatic and odd Clark might make a good character for a magazine article or even a novel.

“A writer is someone who tells you one thing so someday he can tell his readers another thing,” Kirn writes. “A writer turns his life into material, and if you’re in his life, he uses yours too.”

Los Angeles Times

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