I find that summertime is when I remember titles I meant to read years ago but forgot about for no good reason. The other day, for example, a copy of Nicholas Dawidoff's The Crowd Sounds Happy fell into my hands, and I sounded pretty happy about it myself, because I really wanted to read that when it came out. And then forgot about it entirely. I cannot remember the last time I read a book so quickly. I got it home and had finished reading it within, I think, 36 hours. Somewhere around page 40, I sent an email to a friend and said to her, "I don't know if you have time for recreational reading, but if you do, you should really take a look at this." When my husband came home from work, I said to him, "I've started reading a book and I think you need to read it."
It's not that I think Dawidoff's book has universal appeal; far from it. I think it will appeal to people who grew up as sort of sad lonely baseball fans -- which, okay, is probably a large group -- and people who grew up in Dawidoff's version of New Haven (a relatively small demographic). His descriptions of listening to games on the radio are lovely. The descriptions of his family life range from sweet to harrowing. But what slayed me, personally, was his writing about the city I live in. I live, now, just a few blocks away from where Dawidoff grew up, and as someone who's there and raising a child, I could not help but find it fascinating. I was so interested in his memories of New Haven, in fact, that I found myself speculating about how no one who hadn't lived in New Haven in the 1970s would ever want to read this book. Now, that's probably not literally true, but it might not be far from the truth.
No one needs me to tell them that Dawidoff's a good writer. No one needs me to review this book at all, really. But if you are like me -- someone who has all good intentions of reading something which you then forget about until prodded, years after the reviews -- you need someone to remind you. Yes, this is a book you want to pick up. It's not a heartwarming book; Dawidoff isn't a guy you'd describe as happy-go-lucky. But it's a wonderful depiction of one kind of life in one specific version of New Haven, and I'm very glad to've read it.