The first section of this book is as entertaining as anything Plimpton (Out of My League) has written. His loss at horseshoes to then-President George Bush prompted him to prepare for a promised rematch by investigating the X factor, aka the will to win, the killer instinct, etc. He interviewed star athletes and CEOs to find out what ingredients bring success when one is competing against others at least as accomplished as oneself. Plimpton contends that the winning factors include focus, toughness, persistence and a suspension of the intellect. The latter part of the book, in which the author visits Camp David with his son for the return engagement and loses abysmally, turns into an encomium for Bush and his extended family. Plimpton portrays him as a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and an especially considerate individual, and suggests that his defeat in the 1992 presidential election does not diminish Bush as ``an avatar of the X Factor.'' (Mar.)
Plimpton's noted penchant for living out his fantasies on the athletic field (retold in such accounts as Paper Lion, 1966) has led him to reflect on that elusive element that separates winners from losers. Through a series of conversations with prominent athletes, coaches, business executives, and even a former president (much is made of Plimpton's two horseshoe matches with George Bush), he attempts to pinpoint the ingredient that enables them to overcome their competitors. Not unexpectedly, it turns out to be a combination of qualities (confidence, concentration, maturity, sense of purpose, and more) rather than any single factor. In the main, this work is of ephemeral interest and can be considered an optional purchase for popular collections. Indeed, the book will likely be of more interest to fans of fine prose than to sports aficionados. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/94.]-William H. Hoffman, Ft. Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., Fla.
George Plimpton has spent his career as writer, editor, and sports dilettante asking why--as in, Why not play quarterback for the Detroit Lions? Here the question is, Why are some people so successful? Is there a common thread that links the great politicians, the great athletes, and the visionary business leaders? Plimpton dubs it the X factor and sets about trying to find it. The project started with George Bush, the subject of a profile Plimpton wrote for "Sports Illustrated". When the then-president prevailed in a game of horseshoes, Plimpton concluded that Bush had the X factor; his plan was to find out what X was, get some himself, and then challenge Bush to a rematch. Hot on the trail, Plimpton talked with several Vince Lombardiera Green Bay Packers; with Red Auerbach, the mastermind of the Boston Celtics; and with Henry Kravis, the financial mogul who engineered the $25 billion takeover of R. J. Reynolds. Ultimately, Plimpton is never really able to identify the X factor, only to note that it's different for people in different situations. And the rematch with Bush? A good reviewer never reveals the ending, but for Plimpton and for the reader, this journey in search of X, like most journeys, proves more valuable for the process than the product. A light but informative look at an intriguing topic