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Tag: janet maslin

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Over at the Times, Janet Maslin reviews a new biography of Bobby Fischer by Frank Brady:

“Endgame” is a rapt, intimate book, greatly helped by its author’s long acquaintance with Fischer, who died in 2008, and his deep grounding in the world of chess. Mr. Brady was the founding editor of Chess Life, the official magazine of the United States Chess Federation, but his book is entirely accessible to readers who have never heard of that publication. Nor does “Endgame” require any prior knowledge of chess luminaries, chess strategies (no charts here) or chess tournament etiquette. It requires no expertise to appreciate a one-liner like the one the 19-year-old Fischer delivered after a visit to a brothel in Curaçao. “Chess is better,” Fischer said.

Mr. Brady, a biographer dangerously drawn to megalomania (he has also written books about Aristotle Onassis and Orson Welles), takes a demystifying approach to Fischer’s eccentricities. He sees the person behind the bluster, and he presents that person in a reasonably realistic light. Mr. Brady also makes use of unusually good source material, from Fischer’s own unpublished manuscript to 50 years’ worth of his own conversations with Fischer’s associates, mentors and relatives. Note the omission of the word “friends.” Fischer never had them.

Fischer was a genius as well as a madman. Do yourself a favor and check out Bill Nack’s terrific SI piece on his search for the reclusive Fischer: “To find him, to see him, had become a kind of crazy and delirious obsession, the kind of insanity that has hounded other men in search of, say, the Loch Ness monster.”

[Photo Credit: Times On-Line]

Dark Horse

In the everybody loves an underdog department comes the winner of the National Book Award for fiction.

Dig this belated review in the New York Times by Janet Maslin:

Ms. Gordon began her serious writing career in 1963, at 19. She wrote a linguistically quaint parallel-universe novel, “Shamp of the City-Solo,” that appeared in 1974. Regarded by some as an underground classic, it had fallen into relative obscurity by the middle 1980s, when Ms. Gordon discussed it in a long interview with Gargoyle Magazine. Gargoyle is the sort of publication that has ardently scrutinized Ms. Gordon’s work over the years. More mainstream ones, like The New York Times, have managed barely to notice her at all.

So how should her win be understood? Should it be seen as a general triumph for small-press authors (Ms. Gordon’s publisher, McPherson & Company, which has championed her work for decades, remains a company with a post office box for a mailing address), or as a full-blown, legitimate recognition of 2010’s best work of fiction? Perhaps “Lord of Misrule” would not be so startling if Ms. Gordon’s other books had been more widely read. But this novel is so assured, exotic and uncategorizable, with such an unlikely provenance, that it arrives as an incontrovertible winner, a bona fide bolt from the blue.

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