Well, all right, this one isn't a sports book in the usual sense of that designation, despite the presence of a guy who spent eighteen consecutive hours jumping on a pogo stick. "The Guinness Book of Me" is the memoir of a man who spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and fantasizing about the people immortalized by their weird achievements in the Guinness Book of World Records. Steven Church, the author, was big enough for his age so that he felt like a freak, so he sought the companionship of other freaks...gigantic twins who rode around on tiny motorcycles, an otherwise unremarkable boy who ate a tree, and (get ready for sports) a man who made 88 consecutive free throws while blindfolded.
Sports and games and record-breaking are the rocks around which the river of this book swirls and over which it rushes, which is good enough for me. Steven Church writes with energy and imagination, and also with more candor than lots of people writing memoirs choose to employ. As a child he was overshadowed by his younger brother, who was not only fearless, but great at everything he tried. Steven Church yearned to be the best at something, too, but he could only imagine achieving that distinction...a good thing for readers, since it's the imaginers who usually turn out to be the story-tellers.
At some point when he was becoming a young adult, Church's peers grrew to be as big as he was. The scars he'd collected as a child began to fade, or at least to seem less bizarre. But the triumph of The Guiness Book of Me is that Church still feels the powerful burden of the differentness that characterized him as a child. Not only was he too big and too clumsy and too scary, he was too broken and empty when his brother died in an accident at the age of 18. He was, he maintains, at home in the company of people like the man who grew his fingernails into long, boney loops, and the woman who typed the numbers "one" to "one million" because she really liked to type. And when he discovered that the most important opportunity those people provided him was the invitation to imagine what they were like beyond their freaky achievements, Church learned that he was a writer.
This program aired on August 20, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.