E-book and audiobook reviews: on running, animal cruelty, and editing
The Way of the Runner
by Adharanand Finn
Faber & Faber
Many scholars have tried to understand Japan through anthropological study. Adharanand Finn did the same by pulling on running shoes and reading books such as You Gotta Have Wa, Robert Whiting’s study of how group harmony differentiates Japanese baseball from the American game. Runners familiar with Running with the Kenyans will know how serious Finn is about learning by doing. So, just as he tried to discover the secrets of the fastest people on earth by training with them, in 2013 he moved to Japan to learn why the Japanese make great – but not the best – distance runners. Japan is apparently unique in paying runners a salary to join teams attached to business behemoths such as Toyota and Minolta. Finn switched to a Japanese diet and set out for dawn runs, wondering about the wisdom of stretching deeply early in the morning (which runs counter to Western training). He also looked at the Japanese propensity for overtraining, not getting enough sleep, and believing that being a good team member was more important than winning.
Beneath the Surface
by John Hargrove with Howard Chua-Eoan
Beneath the Surface is an angry exposé that calls into question the practices at SeaWorld in the US and highlights why the myth of harmony between animals and humans must change. A former trainer of killer whales, John Hargrove believes captivity renders orcas dysfunctional and dangerous. Those familiar with the documentary Blackfish, which focuses on a SeaWorld trainer mauled to death by an orca in 2010, will learn more about the tragedy in Hargrove's book. He also writes about his own close calls, reliving an episode during which a killer whale grabbed his body. The incident was among many leading Hargrove to conclude that "captivity is always captivity, no matter how gentle the jailer". SeaWorld, where he worked for 14 years before quitting in 2012, is criticised for questionable practices, including withholding food from its animals to ensure they performed satisfactorily. Lacking the freedom to move, boredom and relying on humans for food results in "mutants" with warped psychologies, Hargrove writes. His arguments are convincing.
Between You & Me
by Mary Norris
Mary Norris has written a book for other editors and language nitpickers who, like her, have spent their lives worrying about misplaced commas, dangling participles, using "their" when "his" or "her" is meant, and the like. She's the type of person who lives to find new words (she is rendered ecstatic by "synecdoche") and dies a little when others say "between you and I", instead of what is correct (and used for her title). Frequently funny, but sometimes obsessive to the point of tedium, Between You & Me shows what happens to copy before it is published in The New Yorker magazine. It is also about finding a balance between doing too much and too little. One of the funniest chapters, "F*ck This Sh*t", reveals a lapse in judgment about profanity. Norris also recalls other personal mistakes, as well as her first good spot ("flower" had been used when "flour" was intended), showing how she finds satisfaction. While it may be hard for Norris to relinquish control when it comes to the words in print, she might have found a better narrator for her book: her own voice is weak and ill-suited to the job.