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Sweet: An Eight-Ball Odysseyby Heather Byer
Synopses & Reviews
When Heather Byer moved to New York from the Midwest in the early 1990s, she was like thousands of newcomers before her: wholesome, overeducated, ready to jump head-first into the ruthless, exciting world of literature or film. She eventually built a successful career as a movie executive, only to realize that something was missing from her life. She was stuck — stuck in a lifestyle of fancy lunches and high-powered temper tantrums, of working too hard for too little personal fulfillment.
But instead of turning to therapy or yoga to relieve her angst, Heather found herself drawn to the dark and seductive world of pool.
In Sweet, Byer recounts her first fumbling attempts to learn a game that beckoned to her for years. She describes the hypnotic pull that surrounds the sport of pool: the netherworld of bars that serve as dens for substance abuse; the troubled players who lose themselves in the game; the constant quest for the win. As her game improves, she finds her persona changing, becoming less verbal and analytical and more intuitive and physical as she meets a series of people who leave lasting impressions — a lanky, country-boy pool instructor; a good-hearted lawyer with a drinking problem; a strange South American bank-shot specialist; a hot-tempered woman with a nose-ring and an endless supply of sex appeal; mentors and hustlers; friends and lovers. As she moves through this beguiling, sometimes treacherous subculture, Byer vividly describes her progress and mishaps on the tables. Ultimately, the humiliating losses and exhilarating wins — both in the pool bars and her personal life — alter how she thinks of the game and herself.
Sweet is both an unexpected memoir and a fascinating glimpse into a world few people know and even fewer understand.
"Byer was a 30-year-old vice-president at a feature film company in New York City when she got the career blues. She didn't leave her job, but admits that the glamour had worn thin, replaced by a feeling of emptiness. In this neatly told but overlong memoir, she chronicles her quest for meaning and complexity, which she finds in a foreign subculture: the pool room. The initial attraction is a chance to find a private, elegant world for herself. A competitive Ivy League achiever, Byer is drawn to the players' quest for perfection. Pool, which requires 'dexterity, physical grace and unwavering focus,' is a demanding master. But it's also a dark world of has-beens, addictions, obsessions and self-invention, propelled by intoxicating highs and humiliating lows. Byer takes readers inside the pool scene: the players, lessons, teams, rankings and history of this extraordinary sport. She even shares her brief affairs with other players. But while the pool world is a fascinating, even hypnotic one, the repetitive description of her journey is not. This love letter to the game is strictly for pool fans, who will delight in the inside take as well as the validation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Heather Byer has written for The New Yorker and The Baltimore Sun, among other publications. She spent ten years working in the publishing and film industries. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Byer lives in Brooklyn. She has been playing pool since 1999.
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