Well, how do you like that? We were just sitting here with Decibel the parrot and Beta Cat and our new/used Beta fish, and all of a sudden, the Titans and the Valkyries descended together, shouting praises for Mark Kram, Jr. and his book, Like Any Normal Day!
What a loud and fearsome lot! And yet, at the end of two hours, the only thing they had showered upon my chateau was rose petals. And laurel wreaths. They've gone over to Snobville's new artificial turf field now, where they're playing a friendly game of "From the Rubble." (You'd think They would at least give me some cool armor to wear to ComiCon.)
Why did they leave my house smelling all flowery-fresh? Because They just got around to reading Like Any Normal Day, and They loved it! I had to talk Them out of elevating Mark to Titanic status, out of fear that he wouldn't fit through the front door. We are considering the offer of a golden chariot, because that sure would be an improvement over our 1997 Chrysler, so long as we didn't have to stable and feed hungry supernatural horses.
However, the Titans and the Valkyries weren't the only folks doling out laurels today. A little closer to home, Mark's book won the 2013 PEN/ESPN Award for literary sports writing!
PEN stands for Poets, Essayists, and Novelists. For lo, these many years PEN has been recognizing the best literary work in creative genres. It's a big deal to win a PEN award. In certain highly literate circles, it's even better than the Pulitzer Prize. Anyway, a few years ago, PEN (in association with ESPN) began giving awards to sports books that would qualify as fine literature. In 2013, that person is Mark Kram, Jr., and that book is Like Any Normal Day.
There are oodles of sports titles published in any given year, and it's easy for even the good ones to slip through the cracks and be quickly forgotten. This citation will keep Like Any Normal Day from disappearing with a sniff and a whimper, that's for sure.
Mark Kram, Jr. is my husband, and I can tell you, Gods Are Bored fans, this book was a steel-tempering experience for me. (I won't speak for him.) I'm not the same person now that I was before he began writing it. The process of living through the creation of a book, from the first sad interview with a thwarted athlete, to this day of award and acclaim, has been something like being turned on a potter's wheel. The bowl didn't always unfold perfectly under the potter's hands. At times it was a pretty lumpy bad mess. But here it sits, fresh out of the white-hot kiln, blinking at the universe, changed.
Now I'll turn this sermon over to the PEN judges' comments on the book, which you can see yourself at the PEN America Center, or (like you usually have to do), just take my word for it:
"Mark Kram Jr.'s Like Any Normal Day is a small tale of great moment, rendered with exquisite understatement and elegant restraint. In telling the story of Buddy Miley, a high school quarterback turned quadriplegic whose life snaps in half with one snap of the ball, Kram compels readers to consider the violence routinely enacted on fields of play, and the actions we'd be willing to take to alleviate its consequences. Each of the characters in Buddy's world -- the mother turned caregiver, the girlfriend who loved him as long and as well as she could, the father handcuffed by emotion, the linebacker whose hit snaps life in half, the younger brother who helps him die -- is treated with humanity and respect.
"... In the hands of a less magnanimous, less gifted author, Like Any Normal Day might have plunged into bathos or unwanted moralizing about assisted suicide. Instead, with his first book, Kram has given us a small, polished jewel that enlarges the world of sports and ennobles the genre of literary sports journalism."
Yes, I know, I know ... literary sports journalism sounds like something impossible to produce. Trust me, it isn't. I'm proud of Mark. I know what it took for him to write this.
If you're a book collector, I suggest the hard cover first edition. If you just like a good read, it's out in quality paperback. Here's the link to the hard cover:
The Valkyries are back! They won "From the Rubble!" I'm off to take a free ride, yah yah yah!