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Volume 24 No. 158
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No Ordinary Joe: Mixed Reviews For Joe Posnanski's Book "Paterno"

Simon & Schuster on Tuesday released the much-anticipated “Paterno” by Joe Posnanski, and reviews have been mixed on the bio of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Here’s a look at a roundup of reviews:

: In N.Y., Dwight Garner wrote the book is “breezy and largely sympathetic.” It does not “contain any especially startling revelations” while “mostly skimming the surface of the subject’s life” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/21). Posnanski in the book's introduction writes it is "not a defense of Paterno." However, THE ATLANTIC's Allen Barra wrote, "Yes, it is, and relentlessly." The book as a biography is "spotty at best," and "one problem is that Posnanski does not know college football, or at least he doesn't know much about it before this century." Barra: "Time and again, Posnanski writes as if it was his intention to make clear issues cloudy" (, 8/21). In Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann wrote, “Posnanski does what Posnanski always has done best as a writer: context and texture. ... The truth is that it is a portrait very much in three dimensions. In that sense, Posnanski succeeds.” In the book, former Penn State Univ. Dir/Communications & Branding for Football Guido D'Elia told Posnanski if he found the answer to why Paterno did not follow up on e-mails related to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, the author would “have the story.” Hofmann: “If that is the standard, Posnanski failed. Then again, he never had a chance” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 8/20). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Tim Marcham wrote the book is, "intentionally or not, a devastating blow to Paterno’s legacy.” It will “satisfy no one who wanted Mr. Posnanski to write a document full of damning details about what the coach knew and when he knew it" (, 8/20). In Pennsylvania, Guy Cipriano wrote, “Let’s simply say this book whiffs on many levels.” Besides timing, “nothing separates ‘Paterno’ from other biographies about the coach.” Cipriano: “Many beat writers loathed the access Posnanski was granted. Few will envy what the access produced” (CENTRE DAILY TIMES, 8/22).

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Posnanski began working on the book before the Sandusky allegations came to light last November, and the POYNTER INSTITUTE’s Andrew Beaujon wrote, “It’s hard not to feel sorry for Posnanski, whose boat was already rolling down the ramp, more or less, as the cannons started firing.” Posnanski told Paterno “people expect more from you.” Readers may have “expected more from Posnanski too” (, 8/20). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote Posnanski was “sitting on the most combustible sports scoop of the decade,” as a “quiet, country drive of a project had become a slingshot into space.” However, Posnanski was "singularly ill-equipped to take advantage." Kelly: "Having lived for months as Paterno’s Boswell, he could not suddenly become his Grand Inquisitor” (TORONTO STAR, 8/21). SI's Mark Beech writes Posnanski’s “regret at being forced to write a much different book is palpable on almost every page” (SI, 8/27 issue). Blogger Ed Sherman wrote, “The end result is a hastily-rushed to market book that is disjointed at best and apologetic at worst” (, 8/22). ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s Chris Nashawaty wrote Posnanski “admirably tries to make the best of the hand he’s been dealt," but it is a "lousy hand.” Nashawaty: “Sometimes the only thing you can do is just hold your nose, get to work, and hope for the best. Just ask Joe Posnanski” (, 8/20).

SOLID EFFORT: In K.C., Sebastian Stockman wrote the book “has complicated the issues of the Penn State story, re-enraged me and then left me with at least as many questions as before.” Posnanski has “done his best” (K.C. STAR, 8/20).’s Ivan Maisel wrote, “It is exhilarating to read of Paterno the man and gripping to read of his downfall. For the fair-minded reader, the book will begin to rehabilitate Paterno’s image” (, 8/21). In Pennsylvania, Mark Wogenrich wrote Posnanski “set out to write ‘the definitive biography’ of the Penn State coach.” However, an “issue for the book -- not with it -- is the impulse to read ‘Paterno’ out of order.” Wogenrich: “As large as his story is, Posnanski does not conjure the satisfying operatic finale. For that he deserves credit. The world is complicated and ambiguous. So was Joe Paterno” (Allentown MORNING CALL, 8/21).

IN HIS OWN WORDS: In a special to USA TODAY, Posnanski wrote, “I suspect I will never have a more difficult task as a writer -- I've been told by several authors that no biographer in American history has had a book change so drastically in the course of reporting. I suspect that's not right, but it is right that I was feeling my way through the dark.” He added, “I had come to write a true book. That was what mattered. I have done my best to do that” (, 8/17).