Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the novel Spartina,
which won the National Book Award and has established itself as a modern classic, comes a collection of essays that describe with tenderhearted candor and humor a lifetime’s worth of addiction. No, not an addiction to booze or drugs, but an addiction to a more natural gratification: the joy of sport, exercise, and the sheer elation of being ready and willing to say yes to a challenge. Want to run a marathon? OK.
Climb Mount Katahdin? Sure!
How about canoeing the entire length of the Delaware River? Why not?
Spanning more than fifty years of ambitious and sometimes peculiar endeavors, these essays take us along on some of Casey’s greatest adventures: a twenty-six-day Outward Bound course in Maine during the dead of winter; being pinned by a two-hundred-pound judo instructor whose words, “Come on, white boy. Don’t give up,” encourage at least one more attempt at escape; leading a lost couple on a yacht through the rocky waterways of Narragansett Bay by a simple rowboat; and completing—on his seventieth birthday—a 70K marathon of his own devising that included rowing, bicycling, skating, Rollerblading, and finally, trotting the dog out for a mile.
Be it a preoccupation with health, vanity, or just an indomitably playful sense of adventure, John Casey’s Room for Improvement is a joyful self-portrait of a writer who loves going to extremes, just to find out what it’s like once he gets there.
"National Book Award winner Casey (Spartina) offers insight into his lifelong avocation. Casey notes that the 'parts of history most easily accessible to us are, naturally, those more fully recorded,' and he spent most of his adult life recording his own. Offered in a series of vignettes, some previously published, Casey focuses on endurance activities, such as long-distance running, cross-country skiing, and rowing and canoeing. Those are occasionally interrupted by chest-thumping events such as judo and hay baling. Casey, a literature professor, regularly invokes such authors as Henry James, Henry David Thoreau, and William Faulkner. His own narrative skills are featured in his tale of an Outward Bound adventure in Maine. Spent largely with a group in a whaling boat that became a 'communal cradle... conveniently on course,' it was a physical and mental journey akin to a combination of Walden and Stephen Crane's 'The Open Boat.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the author of the beloved novel Spartina—
winner of the National Book Award—comes a collection of essays that describe with wonderful candor and humor a lifetime of addiction. Not to booze, or drugs, or the rush of adrenaline, but instead, to his insatiable need to say yes to a challenge.
Spanning more than fifty years of ambitious and sometimes peculiar athletic endeavors, these essays take us along on some of Casey’s greatest adventures: a twenty-six-day Outward Bound course in Maine during the dead of winter; being pinned by a 205-pound Judo instructor (who then whispers in his ear, “Don’t give up, white boy”); completing a seventieth-birthday 70K marathon of his own devising that included rowing, bicycling, skating, rollerblading, and, finally, trotting the dog for a mile . . . and many more.
Here is a joyous self-portrait of a great writer who loves going to extremes, just to find out what it’s like once he gets there.
About the Author
John Casey was born in 1939 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the University of Iowa. His novel Spartina won the National Book Award in 1989. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is professor of English literature at the University of Virginia.