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David Halberstam
David Halberstam
photo credit: Bruce Plotkin

November 2, 2000
Playing for Keeps
04/10/34 - 04/24/07

David Halberstam, journalist and nonfiction writer, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his work as a war correspondent in Vietnam. His examination of the war culminated in The Best and the Brightest (1972), a critical history of American's entanglement in the Vietnamese conflict. The New York Times called it "the Iliad of the American empire and the Odyssey of this nation's search for its idealistic soul." Two other books, together with The Best and the Brightest, compose what many critics regard as a classic trilogy about power in America. The Powers That Be (1979) examines the influence of the news media on American society. The Reckoning (1986) is a comparative history of the automobile industry in the U.S. and Japan.

Halberstam's next journalistic epic, soon to be published, will examine ethnic unrest and war in Bosnia, and America's ambivalent attitudes toward conflicts in that region. Another recent work is The Children (1998), a history of the early days of the American Civil Rights Movement, which The New Yorker called, "a wonderfully rich account. . .crammed with history and humanity."

Michael Jordan

David Halberstam is also one of American's leading sportswriters. The Breaks of the Game (1981), an account of an entire year spent with the Portland Trailblazers, was said to be "among the best books ever written on professional basketball" (The Philadelphia Inquirer). The Amateurs (1985), a study of amateur rowing in America, was called "pure reporting on a level undreamt of elsewhere in sports" (The Washington Post). Halberstam's most recent sports books include Sports on New York Radio: A Play-By-Play History (1999) and Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World That He Made (1999, Broadway Books, ISBN #0-7679-0444-3). The Wall Street Journal said that although Mr. Jordan "has received ample attention. . .Mr. Halberstam is the first to present so complete a picture and offer such fresh insights." Halberstam is also editor of the anthology, "Best American Sports Writing of the Century" (1999).

The topic of Halberstam's November 2, 2000 discussion was "Starting Out as a Young Journalist in Viet Nam."

"David Halberstam has written a remarkable book about the changes in American society over the last twenty-five years. On one level, it is about basketball and the game's greatest player, Michael Jordan. On another level, it is a story about how an entertainment culture envelops Jordan and makes him its own. But on its deepest level, it is a story about working to overcome the odds, honoring parents and family, and striving to become a positive social force. This book is a must read for basketball fans, admirers of Jordan, and anyone who seeks to understand sports in America today." - Bill Bradley

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