Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe

S. & S. Audio. Aug. 2022. 23:26 hrs. ISBN 9781442387959. $34.99. SPORTS
Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post editor and biographer Maraniss (Rome 1960) narrates his exhaustive biography of Jim Thorpe, the great athlete born in the Sac and Fox Nation in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) in the late 1880s—only a dozen years after the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn. His birth name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translates to “Bright Path” or “A Bright Path the Lightning Makes.” As a teenager, Thorpe (his Catholic baptismal name) was sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, PA, where forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. was a stated goal. There he was by some accounts a reluctant scholar but excelled in all sports, playing football for Carlisle and taking on (and beating) the likes of Harvard’s and West Point’s teams. He later played pro football, major-league baseball, and basketball. In 1912, Thorpe won two Olympic gold medals for his pentathlon and decathlon performance in Stockholm—his crowning achievement until the medals were rescinded after it was discovered that he had previously played minor league baseball. While his post-athletic career was fraught with difficulties, his notoriety and popularity never waned.
VERDICT As a narrator, Maraniss’s delivery is serviceable but somewhat dry and uninflected. Listeners will likely be absorbed by Thorpe’s remarkable and recommended story, but some might wish for a more engaging guide.
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