A few weeks ago, I went to my beloved local library and checked out Once a Runner. It was just sitting there–I didn’t have to request it or anything (ahem, not that I know anything about requesting books to pick up at the library. Who would? Only the hugest dork.) For those of you who know anything about Once a Runner, that’s kind of ironic, because it was originally published as a limited run. It only recently became widely available, and this new version is the one I picked up at good old Barrett.
Anyway, my review can be boiled down to this sentence: If you are a runner, you will love this book. If you are not a runner, don’t read it. (You all can stop reading here if you’re in a rush.)
This book is, let’s face it, poorly written. Any undergraduate writing class would rip it apart. “Dude, what’s with the random, undeveloped characters that come in and out of the narrative at will?” “I’m just, like, confused by that trial scene? What point does it serve?” And so on. John Parker has written a book in a way that all new writers want to: his characters do what they do because Parker says so, and everything that happens happens because it fits the story he’s trying to tell. I think what happened was that Parker wrote this story, handed it out to runners who loved it, and then it got published and published again, and what is an editor supposed to do with a manuscript that’s already famous as is? You don’t have to write well to be a successful author. (Though because Parker has gone on to become a successful sports journalist, I’m willing to bet that his writing matured, and he found some good editors along the way.)
But before you think I’m being too negative, I want to say that what Parker lacked in the editing department, he more than made up for in passion. His book is magical. I don’t think you need to be an elite runner to appreciate going after your goal like Cassidy does, and I think Parker does an excellent job of describing that. I was breathless as I read the final race scene–so much suspense and so much excitement. So, if you are a runner, you should read it.
Have you read it? What did you think? Aren’t editors awesome?