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Communication & Media

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Famous sportswriter to speak at New Paltz


NEW PALTZ -- Author Roger Kahn, who is often described as the best sportswriter in America, will talk about the major influences on his writing and life in a free public lecture at the State University of New York at New Paltz on Monday, April 26, as the culmination of the Sojourner Truth Library's celebration of National Library Week.

His talk will begin at 5 p.m. in Lecture Center Room 102.

Kahn is best known for his 1972 book, "The Boys of Summer," which is in its 65th printing and has sold nearly 3 million copies. He is also the author of 18 other books and hundreds of magazine articles. Kahn is currently the college's fourth James H. Ottaway Professor of Journalism.

His talk, titled "Into My Own: Some People and Events that Shaped a Life," will recount his path from young sports writer for the New York Herald Tribune through his days as a magazine editor and writer at Time, Newsweek and the Saturday Evening Post to his more recent work as a best-selling author and celebrity.

Chui-chun Lee, the library's director, pointed out that Kahn's work shows a commitment to poetic nonfiction writing that has captured the imagination of many generations of sports fans. But, she noted, his work goes well beyond sports.

Kahn, she commented, "always is interested in social issues in popular culture as they show themes and trends that are in the larger culture." The Boys of Summer is a book about growing old as well as one about the Brooklyn Dodger baseball team, she said. And his 2000 biography on prizefighter Jack Dempsey, "Flame of Pure Fire," is a history of the raucous 1920s, not just a book about boxing.

Kahn, who is 76 years old, grew up in Brooklyn where he idolized the Dodgers. He joined the Herald Tribune as a copy boy in 1948 and rose quickly to become a sports writer. He began to write about the Dodgers in 1952, but also wrote about the other New York teams, the Giants and the Yankees. At the age of 26 he was the newspaper's "star" sports reporter, making a salary of $10,000.

In 1956 Kahn was named sports editor at Newsweek magazine and then from 1963 to 1969 became editor at large at the Saturday Evening Post. For a decade he wrote features for Esquire magazine. Five times his articles were voted the best in the country.

In 1972 he wrote The Boys of Summer, which became not only a best seller but a phrase that is used hundreds of times by other writers during the baseball season. Famous novelist James Michener called The Boys of Summer "the finest American book on sports." He described the book as "a work of high moral purpose and great poetic accomplishment." Two scholars have written that The Boys of Summer helped to spur a renaissance in sports-book publishing during the 1970s and 1980s and helped baseball reestablish its place in American popular culture.

For Paul Brown, chair of the Friends of the Sojourner Truth Library Steering Committee, the talk has special significance. "I saw those Brooklyn Dodgers play many times at Ebbets Field with my dad," Dr. Brown recalled.

Some of Kahn's other books include a memoir of the season he owned a minor league baseball team, a history of a student uprising at Columbia University, and a recollection of the era when the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants dominated baseball. That book, called The Era, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Kahn has written two novels.

Kahn also has two anthologies of his magazine work while a third collection of his work will be published next spring my McGraw-Hill. That book was edited by New Paltz journalism professor Robert Miraldi. Kahn is presently working on a memoir.

Brown called Kahn the perfect culmination of National Library Week celebration. "He writes great books and he loves great books," Brown said. "More importantly, he writes books that do what all great literature should — entertain and enlighten."

The Kahn talk is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Truth Library and the college's Journalism Program. The Friends is an association of faculty, students, parents, alumni, and community and business members dedicated to promoting and enhancing the Library as a shared resource.

Kahn will be autographing copies of his books before and after his talk.