All the Dreams We've Dreamed
By Rus Bradburd. (Lawrence Hill Books, 265 pages, $17.99, paperback.)
Chicago's gun violence statistics are staggering: In 2016, there were 756 homicides. In 2018, 2,376 people were shot, and last June 52 people were shot and 10 killed during one weekend.
The majority of Chicago's victims are young black males. And chances are, many played basketball. Rus Bradburd, a Chicago native and basketball-coach-turned-writer, documents this reality, focusing on high school coach Shawn Harrington, who was shot in 2014 while driving his daughter to school and was left paralyzed.
Bradburd, a former assistant coach at the University of Texas-El Paso and New Mexico State, recruited Harrington to play at NMSU. And although Harrington went on to star at a Division II school in Missouri, Bradburd expresses guilt in the book that he didn't do more to persuade Harrington to stay at NMSU.
After Harrington was shot, Bradburd made it his mission to document the gun violence in Chicago. In the few years researching the book, even more players from Harrington's high school were shot.
Bradburd details the police investigations, court trials and the painful process of recovery for Harrington and a public schools system that seemingly turned its back on him. Bradburd also digs into the lives of some of the current and former Marshall High players and shows how their lives on the court at school and on the streets going home are worlds apart.
Comparisons to the landmark documentary "Hoop Dreams," also set in Chicago, are inevitable. It's an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at both the madness of basketball in Chicago (where eighth-grade students are recruited) and the obsession with guns and gang culture, for which there seems to be no easy answer.
The Big Goodbye: 'Chinatown' and the Last Years of Hollywood By Sam Wasson. (Flatiron Books, 400 pages, $28.99.)
As I read Sam Wasson's breezy, cocaine-dusted history, roughly two-thirds of which is about director Roman Polanski's "Chinatown," I kept wondering: How would it be different if Faye Dunaway had agreed to talk? Dunaway, an easy target in recent years, continues to be in "Big Goodbye," which emphasizes her tardiness and unpredictability. But, reading between the lines, it's hard not to wonder what it was like to be virtually the only woman on set, one whose director disliked her and whose key scene is of her being smacked in the face repeatedly by her co-star, Jack Nicholson. Wasson didn't speak with him, either.
And there are other gaps in the book, which bases an analysis of the 1975 Oscars on "Cabaret" having beaten "The Godfather" for best picture in 1973 (it didn't), which gives "Chinatown" screenwriter Robert Towne's ex-wife an oversized role because she agreed to talk and which seems to have been overhauled in editing — so that, for instance, a punchline about Polanski's skiing only makes sense when you get to the setup for the joke 50 pages later. Wasson, whose biography of Bob Fosse is riveting, makes interesting observations about 1970s moviemaking, but "Big Goodbye" reads like a book by a writer/researcher who too often was forced to write around missing material and say, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."