Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Sportsman's Library

Steve Bodio's newest book is out, and it's great.  It is an erudite, idiosyncratic, personal catalog of one hundred sporting titles. At 256 + xvi pages, each title gets, on average, an 2.56 page description.  And what descriptions they are, one chapter for each of the hundred books.  Each description contains information on the author, a gloss of the content of the book and and Steve's reasons for including the book among among the hundred. He knows many of the living authors and that comes through in personal anecdotes about them.
Steve manages to pull together so many cultural and literary threads it's hard to imagine how he keeps them all in his head.

I was lucky enough to have been sent a preprint back in November - but I just got my bound copy today.  Aside from the pleasure of having a properly bound copy to hold in my hand, what I had not seen, was Malcolm Brooks' blurb on the back which is truly excellent.
"Nobody who loves traditional blood sport wants it's long literary line totally obfuscated by faux-gonzo, Wang-dang Nugents and gear-hawking carny barkers of cartoonish hunting shows.   Steve Bodio brings his formidable powers as both reader and writer to the cause, gifting us with a guide to the greats as varied, as magical, and yes, as essential as the works he champions."     -- Malcolm Brooks, author of Painted Horses 
When a pre-print arrived in my inbox I printed a copy and could not put it down.  I quickly ordered a couple of the rarest titles that I did not already own, figuring prices for some of these out of print books are going to go sky high. In an unscientific survey I just checked to verify my theory and it seems to me that prices on some titles are definitely up. I claim it's because Steve's book is now out.  In a shrewd moment I thought of cornering the market on Plummer's Tales of a Rat Hunting Man, which wouldn't have been all that hard at the time - now it is impossible. One copy is now listed at $673.76.  Prices on a few of the titles in the hundred have been out of sight for a long time -- I'm thinking of Jack O'Connor's  Hunting in the Southwest which I looked for again after reading Steve's description.

Steve's book won't help the price situation, though it may actually get some classics back in print.  I notice that one of the hundred, Saxton Pope's 1923 book  Hunting with the Bow and Arrow, a longtime favorite of mine, is recently back in print. I traded my own copy, an early printing, to a fanatic bow hunter in Virginia for a hind quarter of a whitetail he killed with his bow.  That meat was the beginning of my own long relationship with game meat; killing, butchering, cooking and feasting. I cooked and shared a memorable meal with friends, one of whom popped the cork on a 1974 Chateau Latour for the occasion.  But I always regretted not having my copy of Pope's book which I bought for five dollars in a used book and magazine store in Norfolk Virginia.

In our broader culture, the trend to dumb everything down to the lowest common denominator, to reach the largest possible audience, seems inexorable.   Steve refuses to participate in that trend.  A selection of books like this reveals as much about the selector as it does about the books themselves.  Taken as a whole, it represents a lifetime of scholarship. This book, and the books he recommends, provide a view into the mind of perhaps the deepest thinker about blood sport we have today.  Thank you Steve.

Buy Steve's book now!


  1. An excellent review of an excellent book!

  2. This one looks good and I'm excited to read "good guns again" to get me going in this sporting field. Thanks for gifting me a singed copy of it.