Sunday, August 10, 2008

Five best: books on the Olympics

ESPN's Jeremy Schaap named a five best list of books on the Olympics for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
You Can't Go Home Again
By Thomas Wolfe
Harper, 1940

"You Can't Go Home Again" isn't really about the Olympics, but its protagonist, George Webber, spends the summer of 1936 in Berlin, where he cheers for Jesse Owens and bears witness to the passion of the German masses as they embrace their F├╝hrer. The Games of the 11th Olympiad were the most significant Olympics of the modern era, and Thomas Wolfe -- who was himself there -- captures the atmosphere with, well, a novelist's eye. Here he describes the scene when Hitler approached the Olympic stadium: "At last he came, and something like a wind across a field of grass was shaken through that crowd, and from afar the tide rolled up with him, and in it was the voice, the hope, the prayer of the land." Published posthumously (Wolfe died of tuberculosis in 1938, at age 37), after the German invasion of Poland but before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "You Can't Go Home Again" makes it clear that Americans, and everyone else, could ignore Hitler's Germany only at their peril. "There seemed to be something ominous about it," Wolfe writes about the prevailing mood in Berlin as the opening ceremony approaches. "One sensed a stupendous concentration of effort, a tremendous drawing together and ordering in the vast collective power of the whole land. And the thing that made it seem ominous was that it so evidently went beyond what the games themselves demanded."
Read about the other four books on Schaap's list.

--Marshal Zeringue