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…

Moneyball

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