It has been some time since I have stumbled across a baseball book that made me question its existence. There have been some books that were bad, some that were misguided or without focus. There have been books that lacked purpose or were written poorly. Not until Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti did I come across a book that combined most of those elements, and more, into one dreadful slog of an attempt at a literary work.
The slog part of that last statement is important because at only 120 pages Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti shouldn’t be a slog. Leafing through its pages the reader quickly surmises that much of those 120 pages are occupied by rather large photos. The large font and column format also reduce the actual content capacity within the aforementioned 120 pages. All that being said, reading Anthony Valerio’s effort it feels as if it takes an eternity to flip from one page to the next.
Calling this Valerio’s book is a stretch. It’s not really his book, he didn’t actually write more than maybe three pages worth of prose. Rather, he collected quotes about former Major League Baseball Commissioner and National League President, A. Bartlett Giamatti. The quotes are meant to tell the tale of Giamatti, but for reasons to come later, they don’t quite accomplish what the “author” intends. Maybe I’m out of touch, it could just be that Valerio has formatted a book in a style that some find appealing while I find it wholly aesthetically displeasing. Either way, for me the style that Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti is formatted in was wholly unwelcoming.
The content of the quotes is where Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti missteps the most. Valerio intends to use the various quotes to paint a picture of Giamatti as some sort of rogue scholar. A man both of the people and above the people. All Valerio does is make me believe that Giamatti is not someone who ever would enjoy time among the people. The way Valerio formats the quotes Giamatti comes across as quite pompous. More than that, it becomes clear that Valerio doesn’t so much care for the actual actors in baseball but rather the powerful men behind the scenes who actually make the sport happen. That sort of attitude is completely antithetical to how I view the sport and the fact that people like Giamatti matter very little to the sport compared to the contributions of the workers.
Political and labor arguments aside, Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti simply is not a good book. The format is displeasing, the picture it attempts to paint of its lead figure is a shallow one, and despite being very short and devoid of much actual content, Valerio’s product was about as exciting as watching paint dry. There have to be better books about Giamatti out there. Though it’s not hard to be better than the putrid affair that is Bart: A Life of A. Bartlett Giamatti.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Harcourt Trade Publishers