Mark Kram, Jr., Like Any Normal Day (St. Martin's Press)
The $5,000 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing honors a nonfiction book about sports. Eligible titles should be of a biographical, investigative, historical, or analytical nature and of the strongest literary character.
Jane Leavy, William Leitch, and Ben McGrath
From the Judges' Citation
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.
Here is Kram, a former award-winning feature writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, relating his conversation with Buddy about the moment when before became ever after. “Gazing upon it now with a faraway look, he told me that he had begun hearing an odd ‘sizzling noise,’ how it began in the soles of his feet and shot upward through his legs, torso, and arms before stopping just below his chin.” And then: “In another moment, he was on the ground, his central nervous system unplugged, left with a body that no longer worked but with a mind that carried a cupboard full of memories of how it used to feel to hold the world in his hands.”
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.
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Like Any Normal Day (St. Martin's Press), Mark Kram, Jr.
Road to Valor (Broadway Books), Aili and Andres McConnon
Floyd Patterson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), W.K. Stratton