Friday, May 18, 2012

Room for Improvement: Notes on a Dozen Lifelong Sports by John Casey

I could count if I knew what to count, but I don't. What are the twelve sports to which John Casey refers in his new book Room for Improvement: Notes on a Dozen Lifelong Sports? I don't see a list on the cover or in the preface. There are 24 chapters whose titles are not "Number 1: Swimming," "Number 2: Hiking," and so forth. Is survival training a sport? Do we differentiate between canoeing and sculling? He mentions throwing a shot-put once - do I count it? Do I count hunting and fishing? Maybe teasing readers?

Casey is a novelist, so maybe he is trained not to be so obvious as to include lists in his autobiographical essays. As readers we are supposed to discover his story of sport a little at a time, cheering as he turns his law school era fatness into hard and lean fitness and then staying actively athletic for fifty years. Most of that time is spent outdoors, and many of his activities are extreme. Would you run-walk 50 miles on your 50th birthday? Casey recounts his efforts with enthusiasm and vivid detail. The most gripping story is about his three weeks spent with Outward Bound off the coast of Maine. It is all what-does-not-kill-you-makes-you-stronger stuff.

I enjoyed Room for Improvement but not enough to reread to count the sports. If you can count them, let me know.

Casey, John. Room for Improvement: Notes on a Dozen Lifelong Sports. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 229p. ISBN 9780307700025.

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