Monday, January 09, 2006

Book Review: The Juice is Loose

You know how sometimes you pick up a book in a bookstore and start thumbing through it, and despite that your brain tells you that it's an awful book, you find yourself somehow morbidly fascinated with it and keep on reading, until you decide to actually buy the book and bring it home and read the whole thing?

Well, I went through that experience a few days ago, and since then have been sucking my brains out of my head through a very small straw as I read through the following two books:

Juicy : Confessions of a Former Baseball Wife by Jessica Canseco
Juiced : Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big by Jose Canseco

See, I don't really care about steroids. I really don't. I just don't find them interesting to discuss at all. Hence, I hadn't bothered reading Jose's book when it came out. And I honestly can't tell you what made me think Jessica's book was worth buying. Like I said, it was some sort of morbid curiosity, despite thinking with every word in the book, "Geez, what a goddamn bimbo!"

Let me give you some advice, if you do think of reading these books:

1) Don't read them.
2) If you absolutely must read one of them, read Jose's and not Jessica's.
3) And if you do read Jose's book, keep in mind that he's insane.
4) I dare you to find more than two consecutive pages in either book without the word "steroid" on it.
5) If you are going to read either or both, don't buy them, or at least, don't buy them for full price. Libraries exist for a reason, and Juiced has been out long enough that there shouldn't be a long wait for it at most places.

Reading both of these books back to back is almost like... it's almost like if two of your friends split up, and for some reason decide to keep telling *you* about all of their relationship issues, which means you get to hear both of them tell their side of what happened, which of course are completely different stories, and they want you to take their side and not believe their scummy ex, and you don't know who to believe, so in the end you decide they're both totally psychotic and ignore them both.

That said, Jessica's book isn't really a baseball book at all, so technically I shouldn't even be reviewing it here. She admits through most of it that she has no clue about sports or baseball. The entire book is pretty much her talking about how she met Jose, then how she slept with him for several years, during which he was a lying cheating bastard, and she stayed with him anyway, eventually got pregnant, got married, had a kid, split up, got back together, split up, got back together, split up... yeah. Whatever. Read this book if you really want to hear some deranged chick talking about having sex with Jose Canseco; otherwise, skip it.

Now, on to Jose's book. Since I read Jessica's book first, it was really sort of strange how Jose would talk about certain things, since I'd first heard her viewpoint on it, so I'd be like "Wait... he's lying. Wait... maybe she's lying. Oh for crying out loud, who CARES?" At least this was somewhat a baseball book, and I found some parts of it genuinely interesting. He talks about his life and career, which would probably be a lot more fascinating if he didn't punctuate most of it by injecting the word "steroid" into every paragraph to bulk up his word count.

The thing is, some people have compared this book to Ball Four, and that's an even bigger insult to Jim Bouton than the insults most ballplayers actually shouted at him. Ball Four was a genuinely hilarious and revolutionary book which gave readers a different look at the inside workings of baseball. Juiced is a vaguely amusing at times book which gives readers a different look at the inside of the bathroom stalls of various major league clubhouses.

At any rate, it felt like Jose wanted people to like him more after this book -- sort of like how Ty Cobb's biography by Al Stump had been tailored to make him seem like a good guy (until Stump published the "what a bastard" biographer's cut thirty years later, at least). And yet, this book just made me think he was more paranoid than I would have otherwise. Not counting Jessica's assertions of how Jose would spy on her, he spends a good chunk of the book saying how pretty much everyone in the world was against him -- his teammates, the media, the owners of the teams he played on, and Major League Baseball in general; sometimes he seems sure it's because he was Latino, and sometimes just because he was Jose Canseco, and sometimes I'm not sure what he's thinking. And maybe he's right to some extent, but it's hard to read his assertions without thinking "Err, um, really? Say what? Paranoid much?"

So, read his book if you want to hear a lot of stories about baseball players sticking needles into other players' butts, or if you're curious about the whole Madonna incident, or if you want to hear who he's calling out as juicers besides Giambi, Palmeiro, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, etc. But if you're like me and don't care much about steroids, I would say you're no worse off if you don't bother reading this one, unless you were actually a Jose Canseco fan like pretty much every guy I used to trade baseball cards with as a kid. And in that case, you've probably already read the book anyway, and are about to tell me off for insinuating that Jose sucks.

(Which, to be fair, isn't really true. He doesn't have a co-author or ghostwriter listed for this, and if that's the case, then he actually did a pretty good job putting together a bunch of stories. Honestly, Jessica's book is just plain terrible in that aspect. So, yeah. Remember how I said a few weeks ago that I only talk about good books on here? I knew I'd find a way to break out of that streak...)

No comments: