A lively, literary exploration of one of the West’s most iconic cultural figures—the athlete.
Why is the athlete so important to us? Few public figures can dominate the public imagination with such power and authority. Even in our cynical times, when celebrities can be debunked at the speed of light, many still look to athletes as models for our moral and emotional lives. An aging fastballer goes for a few last wins in his final season, and he becomes an exemplar for our daily struggles against time.
A top golfer cheats on his wife, and his behavior sparks a symposium on marital fidelity more wideranging than if the lapse had come from a politician or religious leader.
Drawing from art, literature, politics, and history, Something Like the Gods explores the powerful grip the athlete has always held on the Western imagination. Amidon examines the archetype of the competitor as it evolved from antiquity to the present day, from athlete-warriors such as Achilles and Ulysses to global media icons like Ali, Jordan, and Tiger Woods.
Above all, Something Like the Gods is a lyrical study that will appeal to anyone who has ever imagined themselves in the spikes, boots, or sneakers of our greatest athletes—or wondered why people do.
About Stephen Amidon
Stephen Amidon was born in Chicago. He is the author of Subdivision, a book of short stories, and six novels, including The New City and Human Capital, which Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post chose as one of the five best novels of 2004. His books have been published in sixteen countries and a film version of Human Capital is currently in preproduction in Italy. He is a regular contributor of essays and criticism to newspapers and magazines in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Amidon lived and worked in London for twelve years before returning to the United States in 1999. The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart, which he co-authored with his brother Tom, was released in 2011 and selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best health and medicine titles of the year. Amidon’s latest book, Something Like The Gods, has just been released. For more information, visit stephenamidon.com.
From the shamanistic athletic rituals of Paleolithic hunters to the exploits of today’s millionaire sports superstars, athletes have fascinated and transfixed us for centuries. This is true, writes Amidon (co-author: The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart, 2011, etc.), for both a universal and a particular reason. At their best, “athlete[s] ha[ve] always been able to transport us out of our daily lives,” to stop time for an instant and allow us to suspend disbelief. At the same time, the athlete has always held the ability “to represent the ethos of his era.” In rich yet concise prose, Amidon explores this universalist nature of the athlete, including the godlike efforts of the Greek warriors of the ancient Olympics; the tragic heroics of the Roman gladiator; and the romantic image of the jousting knight errant to the civilized amateur ideal of the Victorian era. In his discussion of the modern era, the book’s most accomplished section, Amidon emphasizes how class, race and gender worked to initially limit who could become an athlete—working-class competitors, for instance, were explicitly barred from the first modern Olympics—and how those excluded overcame such barriers. Women athletes now hold sway in the public imagination more than they ever have. The black American athlete has moved from being an occasional patriotic icon (Joe Louis) to a political rebel (Muhammad Ali) to a cultural avatar (Michael Jordan). Though he occasionally lapses into questionable comparisons—the early-era baseball player, reflecting the industrialization of work, as a working-class Joe who worked overtime (like everybody else) if a game went into extra innings—Amidon’s broad historical sweep fascinates with its facts and challenges with its commentary. – Kirkus Reviews
“Something Like the Gods: A Cultural History of the Athlete From Achilles to LeBron” by Stephen Amidon
The Washington Post Book Review – July 27, 2012 (Excerpt)
More than any other cultural figure, Stephen Amidon argues, the athlete captures the imagination, hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations of the average American. “Rappers, rockers, movie stars, politicians, self-help gurus, and talk show hosts all have their own constituencies,” he writes, “but none of them have the ability to stop the world in its tracks like the athlete.”
Amidon’s smartly written and thoroughly researched new book, “Something Like the Gods,” traces the path of the modern athlete from the Greek battlefields to the basketball parquet and, for the next few weeks, to the Olympic compound in London. On the way, Amidon demonstrates the jock’s evolution from sword-wielding warrior to bat-swinging baseball player. Hunters engaged in games to perfect their deadly skills, he notes, citing a 1969 study by the German historian Gerhard Lukas, who claimed that “the first sport was spear throwing.” Amidon adds, “The line from the hunter’s club to the Louisville Slugger might be a long one, but it is also unbroken.” [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
The Bleeding Hills is available at Amazon.Com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.