"Edge of Glory", by Christine Brennan

Reviewed by Sandra Loosemore

Last weekend I found a copy of Christine Brennan's latest book, "Edge of Glory", in the library. After reading it, I'm really glad I didn't waste money buying a copy: this book is pretty much pure trash.

Brennan doesn't show that she's gained much understanding or respect for the sport since her previous skating book ("Inside Edge"). For instance, she starts out by claiming that skating is so difficult to understand that it "requires" narration, and that only "a very few skating fans" can identify the jumps or spot flawed landings. Maybe Brennan herself "requires" narration and help in identifying jumps, but I'd say that there are large numbers of knowledgable fans who attend competitions and who understand what they're seeing, and who even often have sharper eyes than Dick Button for picking out flawed jumps.

As an example of her lack of understanding, Brennan continually mis-identifies the presentation mark as being for "artistry" and shows no understanding that there are specific *technical* criteria included in this mark. Instead, she theorizes that the purpose of the second mark is to allow the judges to "hold up" skaters, to "stop the little girls", or as an arbitrary measure of how much the judges "like" a program.

Even when there are obvious instances where Brennan might have said something rational about the presentation mark, she has failed to do so. For instance, in discussing Scott Davis's excessive posing in front of the judges in his 1997 long program, instead of making the connection to how use of the ice surface is included in the second mark, Brennan talks about how Davis was dissed by US judges for looking too much like Petrenko and Baiul instead of skating "in the traditional American style". She goes on to say that judges from the Eastern bloc "liked" Davis's program, reinforcing the idea that this was simply an arbitrary stylistic preference instead of something covered under the rules of the sport.

I also was bothered that Brennan included so many derogatory and hurtful comments about the skaters in the book. What was the point, for instance, of continually referring to Elena Berezhnaia as "Blade in the head"? Or of repeatedly referring to Laetitia Hubert as "The Human Zamboni", or making multiple references to Ilia Kulik's program as "Rhapsody in Moo"? One gets the impression that Brennan enjoys indulging in this kind of petty nastiness directed at the skaters.

Yet another troublesome aspect of the book is the way Brennan treats the USFSA, "judges", and "skating" generally as a monolithic whole instead of as a collection of individuals. Too many times she claims that the USFSA said X, or the skating world thought Y, or the judges thought Z; or talks about "skating's fascination with Tara Lipinski", or "what skating would do with Elvis Stojko", or claims that "figure skating pulled a fast one" on Michelle Kwan. Who, exactly, is she referring to? And what basis does she have for making such generalizations?

I am getting pretty tired of the Kwan/Lipinski flame wars and I just don't have the energy to comment on Brennan's treatment of these two skaters, except to note that her characterization of them as the "artist" and the "athlete" (respectively) is over-simplified, and that instead of considering whether there were specific criteria involved in the judging in Nagano, she simply concludes that Lipinski won because she was "having too much fun to be denied". Huh? Since when is "having fun" included in the rulebook?

In short, there's too much cow poop in this book, and not enough real information that isn't already available from other sources. If you want to read an "inside story" book about skating, I suggest Beverly Smith's "Talking Figure Skating" instead.

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