book review: running the table (may contain spoilers)

before you read this post, please note that the post may contain spoilers to the book.

based on snarky’s recommendation, i went and found a copy of l. jon wertheim’s book running the table, the biography of danny basavich, aka kid delicious.  like many biographies, the presentation is fairly straightforward: where danny grew up, events that happened in danny’s childhood, danny’s start in pool, and so on.  the twist, as injected by wertheim, is the simultaneous recount of the life of danny’s road partner, bristol bob begey.  by chronicling two biographies simultaneously, wertheim was able to weave in and out of two sets of stories, thus creating offsets and textures that added to the color of the story.

wertheim’s formidable writing skills, at least in my amateur eyes, is quite apparent within the pacing and flow of this story.  the book had such a sense of ease, this easy ebb and flow of words, that i finished the book in one day; i would guess that most people would rate this book as an easy read.  the story began with danny’s life as a teenager, and how his unpopularity (at least with the popular kids in school) coupled with depression ultimately drove him to pool.  having little use for school, and discovering that he possessed almost world-class hand-eye coordination, danny took to pool & pool hustling as rapidly as an asphyxiated man took to oxygen.  then the book went on to detail danny’s various road escapades, his introduction to his road partner bristol bob, how the road life affected both men, and how the unquenchable desire to become better ultimately drove each man into different directions.

as i read along, i couldn’t help but get this sense that i was observing a roller coaster ride from the sidelines.  it was exciting and thrilling, but in the end, my brain let out a big fat MEH.  wertheim may not have intended this, but there seemed to be an emptiness once you reach the book’s end.  quite possibly, the life of the other danny (as written by robert byrne) spoiled it for me.  mcgoorty, a billiards hustler, went through much of the same ordeal.  is it possible that the fate of a hustler (billiards or pool) will almost always mirror the next?  i can’t say.  i’ve not lived that lifestyle, and i’ve no experience to definitively state that certain things will always happen to pool/billiards hustlers.  but the moral of this story seemed to say that you will live with the things you choose, whether you want to or not.  that’s what i thought anyway.

for those unfamiliar with the pool world, or those that just began their odyssey into this murky pond, running the table is a fun read; the book may also be valuable as a vaccine against the various hustles and cons a player is likely to encounter.  i personally don’t think the book is worth buying, but your opinion may differ.  in any case, i was glad to find it in a library; i got to keep my cheapskate reputation, and i had an entertaining time reading it.  if you like it enough to buy, get used copies or find new ones on discount sites like  (hey, at least it’ll be a much better buy than the mccumber’s book playing off the rail.  between mccumber and wertheim, wertheim wins hands down.)  the book is also available on kindle, nook, and audiobook formats, but not on ibooks.  (weird!!)

to paraphrase the line from my fellow pool blogger dagwoodz: the book is what it is . . . and that is that.

as an aside, i got to see the movie true grit, the remake of the 1969 john wayne classic.  is it better than, say, eastwood’s unforgiven or russell’s tombstone?  i’d probably say no.  but true grit is easily those movies’ equal, and the cinematography is gorgeous in that desert-tundra-frigid lands-dirt field sort of austere way.  plus, newcomer hailee steinfeld absolutely stole the show.  there were buzz about an oscar nomination for steinfeld in the best supporting actress category; i think she should be in the best actress category.  yup, steinfeld’s performance was that good.  go see it if you have movie plans.  here’s a trailer.

3 comments on “book review: running the table (may contain spoilers)

  1. Nice review of Running the Table. I agree with your comments. Regarding True Grit, I enjoyed it, especially Matt Damon’s character (Texas Rangers!), but I wouldn’t put the movie in the same league as Tombstone. Tombstone had such good casting, acting, and an incredible number of golden one-liners. I agree with you that Hailee did a great job. Maybe she’ll steal an Oscar?

    • glad you enjoyed my book review michael. i personally thought true grit is just as good as tombstone. it’s a bit difficult to compare because the two movies have such different pacing. regardless, i enjoyed the movie & i was glad i saw it in theaters. i’ll try to catch tron: legacy next.

      – the eagle

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