Shelton Clark

Jason "Say" Sayer, the central character of Inman Majors' debut novel, Swimming in Sky, is not the first confused young man ever portrayed in a novel. However, as a child of the 1970s, Say's story and his words will ring true with any number of people whose doubts and mental torments come from some uniquely American factors: the empty facade of suburban life, the emotional fallout of divorce and the weight of familial expectations, for starters.

It would be easy to dismiss Say as a slacker (three years out of college, jobless and living with his mother and her boyfriend) if he weren't such a close-to-home character: a former high school basketball player, a bright kid who got a Vanderbilt degree, someone who has a few close friends but is something of an outsider in almost any crowd. Majors' mostly laconic, sometimes poignant narration allows us to see through Say's eyes as he attempts to move out of his inertia. An almost Walker Percy-esque spirituality bubbles up from time to time during his summer of discontent.

Says' hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, (site of the University of Tennessee, where the author's uncle, Johnny Majors, was once the football coach) will remind readers of college towns everywhere with its fern bars and football fanatics. But only a Southern boy would have friends named Pel, Trick, Jimbo and Bobsmith and the sounds of Appalachia ringing through his conversations. In this promising debut, Say's catharsis proves painful, but readers will find some good laughs and remarkable insights along the way.

Jason "Say" Sayer, the central character of Inman Majors' debut novel, Swimming in Sky, is not the first confused young man ever portrayed in a novel. However, as a child of the 1970s, Say's story and his words will ring true with any number of people whose doubts and mental torments come from some uniquely […]

The number of books on parenting is astounding, and their advice, taken together, is overwhelming and often contradictory. One trusted voice that rises above the din is that of T. Berry Brazelton, whose work as a pediatrician, author, and advocate for children has helped many parents cope with the stresses of raising children in a fast-paced world. Brazelton and co-author Stanley Greenspan have teamed to create a new work which not only aims to help individual families, but offers strong suggestions on what society as a whole should invest in the well-being of children.

Brazelton and Greenspan outline what they see as seven irreducible needs: the need for ongoing nurturing relationships; the need for physical protection, safety and regulation; the need for experiences tailored to individual differences; the need for developmentally appropriate experiences; the need for limit-setting, structure, and expectations; the need for stable, supportive communities and cultural continuity; and the need to protect the future.

For example, in a world increasingly dependent on non-parental child care, Brazelton and Greenspan emphasize the need for daily, personal, one-to-one contact between parent and child (the authors like to refer to it as "floor time"). Often, even the best child care centers come up short when it comes to meaningful one-on-one contact with children. A lack of personal contact, even in young infants, can stunt a child's intellectual and emotional growth.

The authors also discuss their opinions on more specific topics, such as how much television is too much, why "tough love" is a misguided idea, and whether spanking is appropriate.

The writing in The Irreducible Needs of Children does veer into academic areas of child psychology and physiology, possibly heavy subjects for parents not trained in the life sciences, but the authors wrap up each chapter with a fairly accessible summary.

While some of the authors' recommendations might seem to conflict with the reality of many parents' lives and the hopes for politicians and those in power to adopt meaningful legislation and funding for children's programs certainly sounds unrealistic there is plenty of practical parenting information for parents of infants, toddlers, and older children to put into practice immediately.

Shelton Clark is a writer in Nashville.

 

The number of books on parenting is astounding, and their advice, taken together, is overwhelming and often contradictory. One trusted voice that rises above the din is that of T. Berry Brazelton, whose work as a pediatrician, author, and advocate for children has helped many parents cope with the stresses of raising children in a […]

Cyclist Lance Armstrong's win in the 1999 Tour de France was one of the most amazing comeback stories in sports history. Only the second American to win the sport's most coveted prize, Armstrong's win came after he had successfully battled testicular cancer that had metastasized into his lungs and brain.

In this compelling book, Armstrong recounts his battle for survival and the transforming effect of facing a potentially deadly illness. He paints an unflinching self-portrait, describing his fall from the persona of a cocky, world-class athlete, seemingly indestructible, to a man helplessly facing his own mortality.

Armstrong's story begins in Texas, where he grew up as an outsider in a football-crazy Dallas suburb. Raised by a determined and loving mother, who was just 17 when he was born, Armstrong never knew his biological father and rejected his stepfather's attempts to serve as a father figure. Small in stature, but possessing an incredible level of endurance and stamina, he began competing in triathlons as a teenager. Before long, he was concentrating exclusively on cycling.

Armstrong had become an international cycling champion by October, 1996, when his world fell apart. Diagnosed with testicular cancer, he learned within days that the cancer was spreading quickly.

Aided by family, friends, and supportive doctors, Armstrong explored the options available and chose a rigorous course of surgery and chemotherapy. He details in grim terms the agony and desperation he felt while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Even after the long recovery process was seemingly complete, the French media proved to be as much of an opponent as any of Armstrong's fellow Tour de France cyclists. The year before, a doping scandal had rocked the event, and French newspapers insinuated that Armstrong's recovery was a little too miraculous.

But winning the Tour de France, amazingly, wasn't the highlight of Armstrong's year. His wife Kristin gave birth to their son Luke in the fall of 1999, the closing chapter in a storybook year.

The word survivor is often used pejoratively in the world of athletics, but Lance Armstrong really is a survivor a survivor who plans to defend his Tour de France title this year, and then go for an Olympic gold medal in Sydney.

Shelton Clark is a writer in Nashville.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong's win in the 1999 Tour de France was one of the most amazing comeback stories in sports history. Only the second American to win the sport's most coveted prize, Armstrong's win came after he had successfully battled testicular cancer that had metastasized into his lungs and brain. In this compelling book, Armstrong […]

It is staggering to think how far women's sports have come in the 1990s. Ten years ago, most sports fans couldn't name more than a handful of female athletes outside of the occasional Olympic gymnast or figure skater. Now, any woman or, perhaps more importantly, man who reads the sports pages could name any number of players in two women's professional basketball leagues, and the most well-known soccer player in the U.

S. is Mia Hamm, a member of the national teams which have won not only the Olympics but World Cup competitions.

What may surprise readers (or may only surprise male readers) of Nike Is a Goddess is that women were held back from competing in many sports because sports were seen as unbecoming, unfeminine, or hazardous to women's presumably delicate physiology. Despite the rather pretentious title, Nike Is a Goddess contains fascinating stories of the evolution of women's sports, especially in the 20th century. What might make men uncomfortable, and rightly so, is the premise that, in many cases, certain competitions were closed to women because the competitors themselves and/or the public support threatened male competitors and teams in a very real way.

That premise is presented several times, though only in addition to sports history that stands on its own as excellent sports writing. While the familiar names of recent years are present basketball star Rebecca Lobo and skater Tara Lipinski the real intrigue comes from stories like those of Jackie Mitchell.

Mitchell was a 17-year-old baseball phenomenon playing in amateur men's leagues in Chattanooga, Tennessee, until she was signed to a minor-league contract. In April, 1931, she appeared in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, striking out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, baseball's first commissioner, however, voided Mitchell's contract, insisting that baseball would be too strenuous a game for women. While the book is presumably aimed at female readers, all fans of sports history would do well to absorb this volume. Women's sports weren't invented this decade; they've been there the whole time.

Shelton Clark is a reviewer in Nashville, Tennessee.

It is staggering to think how far women's sports have come in the 1990s. Ten years ago, most sports fans couldn't name more than a handful of female athletes outside of the occasional Olympic gymnast or figure skater. Now, any woman or, perhaps more importantly, man who reads the sports pages could name any number […]

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