The American culture industry was shipping out products like White Christmas with reliable regularity— trifles made not without some care and craft, but generally with little eye toward longevity, and certainly no expectation that they become time capsules of the era’s subcutaneous anxiety. But some, including White Christmas, were dipped in the waters of dread, and they still bear the mark.
— On White Christmas and the Great America that never was, for Sinkhole Magazine
Mark Kingwell will be in Peterborough on March 22nd to discuss his new book, Fail Better: Why Baseball Matters. I’ll be on hand to host the event and lead the conversation. Free event, all welcome.
The numbers jumped. Why deny it? When, in 1991, MLB awarded Denver a franchise, set to begin play in ’93, it was certainly not a surprise to baseball’s braintrust to learn that the city’s elevation would have an ameliorative effect on the flight of baseballs. That might even have been the point…. But, like performance-enhancing substances, thin air won’t turn nothing into something. Larry Walker, as his pre- and non-Denver numbers attest, could hit.
— “Larry Walker Belongs in Cooperstown,” for VICE Sports Canada
Throughout Code’s work, characters—usually young males—latch onto codices, texts or cultural relics out of the past in order to graft some measure of meaning onto their lives. They go in search of designs for living and often find them in unusual places. It might be chess, or music, or, as in the case of Code’s 2010 Journey Prize winning story, “Uncle Oscar,” croquet. His characters are in search of totems as well as shibboleths—that is, proof of their own identity, and a means of locating others who share their beliefs.
— I reviewed Devon Code’s novel, Involuntary Bliss, for the Literary Review of Canada
Here’s the truth of it: the game makes sense. Down there on the field we know just what’s at stake. It’s a cleaner, truer expression of ourselves. It’s something to make the hair on our arms stand up, something to hold dear and pass along and worry over. But here’s the rest of that truth: it promises more torment and frustration than most of us would otherwise willingly invite into our lives. It requires loss and pain and heartbreak. It’s not easy, not if you’re doing it right.
— “Home,” from The Utility of Boredom
Ubaldo Jiminez is pitching—and Zach Britton is not—and his first pitch to Encarnacion meets wood and then rises up through the cool air inside the open-roofed stadium and lands in the second deck. Encarnacion stands with his arms above his head and drops his bat. I stand with my arms above my head. “Oh my God,” I say. “Oh my God.” “Did they do it?” asks my wife, who is upstairs unpacking. “Oh my God,” I say again. The SkyDome erupts in jubilation and disbelief. The TV broadcast will end with that buzz still apparent, the emotional currency of that place plain and enticing to us at home. It is unlikely that a team’s fans should ever know even one of these moments, but we have counted four. In the morning I will show the children the replay of Encarnacion’s home run over breakfast. I will watch it myself a dozen more times.
— “Timelines,” for Eephus, about Encarnacion’s Wild Card Game-winning home run, as well as Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, José Bautista, memory, family, the passage of time, and a bunch of other stuff
A lot of baseball literature gets bogged down in numbers and abstract statistics. Writers often forget what the game feels like. Forbes doesn’t. Perhaps what makes his book successful is that he approaches it with the same measured composure as a player does the game. Boredom and excitement coexist elegantly in The Utility of Boredom, just as they do upon the baseball field. In Forbes’ estimation, it’s an antithetical but necessary relationship. And, in baseball, he locates their ideal synthesis.
— Joseph Thomas
The Puritan, continuing their generous support of the work of Canadian writers and independent publishers, shines a light on The Utility of Boredom in “‘Makes You Want to Talk About Baseball:’ A Conversation on Andrew Forbes’s The Utility of Boredom,” by Thomas, Myra Bloom, and E. Martin Nolan
We wander into the guts of the stadium for another beer or a bathroom break and see where they have hung on the walls images of old teams who played here, including the Athletics, the Alouettes, and the Braves, members of the Provincial League and, later, farmhands for Boston and Milwaukee. Warren Spahn pitched in this very ballpark. Hank Aaron hit a home run here. They modeled this park’s design on Trois-Rivières’ home field, built a year earlier. The Expos installed an affiliate in the ’70s, called les Carnavals, and later, the Metros. Gary Carter and Andre Dawson took their hacks. Though unique, Québecois baseball is nothing new. It goes back decades, or a century, or more.
— “Le baseball,” on les Capitales de Québec of the Can-Am League, for Eephus
Lives exist in the world – messy, unfair, desirous, subjective, and silly as it is – and it’s a story’s task to describe some bit of that. The hope that I might succeed at that frankly impossible task is what underpins my work, and yes, what I produce as a result is shaped by the prejudices and beliefs I harbour, as I suspect is yours. The trick is to make it into something worth reading.
— “Author 2 Author,” over at Found Press, a lengthy chat with short story writer Seyward Goodhand about all kinds of things including process, the way in which beliefs filter into fiction, and the terror of naming fictional characters