Saturday, July 5, 2008

David Maraniss' "Rome 1960"

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, and reported the following:
The page 99 test is an interesting one in the case of Rome 1960. I try to give each paragraph in a book equal care, but there is a rhythm to every section and every chapter is meant to build upon what comes before and lead to a payoff later. Readers turning to page 99 of Rome 1960 will find themselves starting not only in media res but in the middle of a sentence and in the middle of a larger riff. The chapter is about the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony of the 1960 Summer Olympics, and the point of the chapter is to take the reader through the various political and cultural threads that were weaving through the world during that tense summer. One would have to back up a page to realize that the East Germans mentioned in the beginning of the page were competing on a supposedly unified team with the West Germans, months before the Berlin Wall went up. The page ends with the introduction of the African nations, who were gaining their independence that summer and who would make a statement in Rome with the victory of Ethiopian Abebe Bikila in the marathon, the first black African to win a gold medal. So in the sense that the page mixes sports and politics, it represents the book, though the payoff sections of the chapter come before and after page 99, which like the parade itself mostly helps get you from here to there. On Page 100, for instance, Rafer Johnson appears carrying the U.S. flag, the first black ever to do so for the Americans, and that is one of the central sections of the chapter.

Still, the 99 test is worthy and interesting...
Read an excerpt from Rome 1960, and learn more about the book and author at David Maraniss' website.

--Marshal Zeringue