Jonathan Yardley, who is our newest contributing editor and first regular book reviewer, says of his profession: "The greatest pleasure in reviewing books is finding something that is genuinely good and being able to tell other people about it." On page 14 of this issue Yardley tells us something—not good—about the first two of a spate of Henry Aaron books that will be published this spring. And throughout the year at his base in Miami, where he is book-page editor of the Herald and does general reviews for such publications as The New York Times, Book World and The New Republic, Yardley searches through the scores of sports books that come his way.
The judgments Yardley makes are entirely his own. They are formed by his experience, his biases and his taste. Therefore, in the belief that one should know one's local book reviewer, we present the following comments from the pen and mouth of Jonathan Yardley.
•"Anybody who writes would like to have written a book, but writing one is another matter. I'm still in awe of authors. I think anybody who can write a book, much less a good one, deserves congratulations."
•"I am fascinated by what Roger Angell has called 'the mystery that will always separate the spectator from the athlete: "How does it feel to be you?" ' One looks to sports books in hopes of an answer."
•"The problem the fan who writes about sports has is that he can get too close to the players. Up close they somehow lose that superhuman quality that draws you to them."
•"There are a half dozen books this spring about the New York Mets and not a single one about the world champion Oakland Athletics. The publishers, canny fellows, must be reading Oakland attendance figures."
•"Baseball has produced the only good sports fiction this country has: Bang the Drum Slowly, The Natural, You Know Me Al and The Universal Baseball Association. The finest American book about sports is Roger Angell's The Summer Game."
•"It's easier to write a negative review than a positive one. A positive one is difficult because it's hard to make your enthusiasm plausible. You can't just say 'I love it.' "
•"When I was a boy in Chatham, Va., I used to lie in bed at night and spin the radio dial looking for baseball games. On a clear night I could pick up the Cardinals, the White Sox, the Dodgers, the Yankees—on a particularly lucky night even the Red Sox."
•"I can never remember not loving sports as a fan, in the really naive, hero-worshiping sense of the word."
For many of his 34 years—as an unhappy boarding-school student who read novels instead of doing his homework: as the editor of the University of North Carolina's Daily Tar Heel (who once described "in extravagant detail" the birth, under his desk, of a litter of puppies); as an assistant to James Reston on The New York Times; as an editorial writer for the Greensboro Daily News; as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard—Jonathan Yardley was getting ready to take up his calling. We are pleased to be among the beneficiaries of his preparation.