This post doubles as an update of my writing goals and a short review of Michael Lewis' book Moneyball. First, my goals. Lately on Read/Write Web, I've been exploring options for my future. eBooks and Knowledge Management storywriting are a couple of things I've been researching. And one thing I passionately wrote about on this blog was the idea of writing a "biography of Web 2.0" - where I would travel around the West Coast of America and interview people involved in building Web 2.0. A grand plan indeed, seeing as I have a young family and currently live on the other side of the world in New Zealand! My inspirations for writing such a book are Michael Lewis, Tom Wolfe, Po Bronson and other non-fiction masters (hence the tie-in with the Michael Lewis review in this post).
Some of you may be wondering where I'm at with the book idea. Well I thought a good way to prove myself capable of such an undertaking would be to conduct a series of interviews by email and/or phone with some of the leading Web 2.0 characters. This would be a base for me to pitch a whole book to a publisher, plus it would be a starting point for the project and I would learn a lot. It's also a chance to get my readers and others in the blogosphere behind my book project - kind of like what Dan Gillmor did with We the Media.
So, coming up soon on Read/Write Web is (what I hope will be) a series of "Web 2.0" interviews. I've nearly completed the first interview, with a P2P pioneer. I'm in the middle of organizing the next one, with a leading Web 2.0 visionary. I hope I can get that finalized, but the fact that I'm on the opposite side of the planet is proving to be a slight hassle.
So my plan is to bring you lots of interesting interviews and Web 2.0 analysis on Read/Write Web, which will help me eventually pitch my Web 2.0 book idea to a publisher. One step at a time...
To the Moneyball book review. I've read all of Michael Lewis' books and this is yet another outstanding example of his work. His writing appeals to me because it's what I aspire to be as a writer - analytical, investigative, informative, compelling, using literary techniques to tell a real-life story. As an example of the latter, take this superb piece of prose that describes the Oakland A's GM Billy Beane (the main character in this book):
"Fuck!" he shouts again. He reaches for his snuff. He hasn't slept in two days. It's a tradition with him: he never sleeps the night before the draft. He's too excited. Draft day, he says, is the one day of the baseball year that gives him the purest pleasure.
Except when it goes wrong. He claws out a finger of snuff and jams it into his lip. His face reddens slightly. The draft room, at that moment, has an all-or-nothing feel to it. [...]
(pg 106-107) Now that is a great piece of narrative!
The part of the book I liked best was when Lewis told the story of Bill James, who pioneered the baseball analytics that is the subject of Moneyball. Lewis describes Bill James thus:
"A number cruncher is precisely what James was not. His work tested many hypotheses about baseball directly against hard data - and sometimes did violence to the laws of statistics. But it also tested, less intentionally, a hypothesis about literature: if you write well enough about a single subject, you needn't write about anything else."
This is a theory I've been interested in for a long time, particularly in regards to music writing. Lester Bangs is a good example of a music writer who managed to write about the important themes of life, just by writing about Lou Reed and all the other 70's rock stars he followed. His description of doomed musician Peter Laughner, who drank himself to death in his early twenties, is particularly memorable (from the book Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung).
As Lewis says of James (pg 95): "...statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible."
Which is precisely what I want to achieve as a Writer and Web Technology Analyst.
My Rating of Moneyball: 9/10