The Book on Joe

August 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

Lately it seems like the gods are making sure that there’s always a steady stream of news coming out about Penn State. And I think we already know what next week’s news will be: Paterno, the new biography by Joe Posnanski. It’s due to hit bookstores on Tuesday.

There’s a fair amount of anticipation around the book’s release (it’s already No. 28 on the top-sellers list, for example) and in large part that’s because of the circumstances: Posnanski set out to write a biography of Joe several years back, long before anyone knew what was to come, and suddenly last November Joe Paterno was out of a job and the nature of the book changed completely.

There was a time earlier this summer when a lot of people questioned whether the book even mattered anymore. The release of the Freeh report—which harshly criticizes Paterno for not doing more to stop Jerry Sandusky from abusing young boys—didn’t help. A July 22 New York Times story called the biography “perhaps one of the most unfortunately timed books of 2012” and said it would “enter the marketplace at a moment when the name of Joe Paterno … has gone from revered to radioactive.” Posnanski’s book tour was cancelled, and now you can’t even find an official website for the book.

(The New York Times also wrote about the book this past April; that’s an article worth reading as well.)

On Wednesday of this week, Posnanski himself wrote in USA Today about the challenges the book presented. It sounds like the first sentence of his book sums up pretty well the extremes in people’s perceptions of Joe:

“This is the story of a man named Joe Paterno, who in his long life was called moral and immoral, decent and scheming, omniscient and a figurehead, hero and fraud, Saint Joe and the devil.”

Also on Wednesday, GQ magazine released some teensy tiny excerpts from the book—a grand total of 500 words’ worth. You can read those here. (And what the heck is Paterno, an avowed luddite, holding in that illustration? An iPhone?) Those are teasers from a longer excerpt that’s available in the September edition of GQ, which is on newsstands now.’s Nate Mink ’11 bought a copy of the magazine and has posted a story about it, and Dustin Hockensmith ’04 of has a story as well.

Tina Hay, editor

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