Thrilled to have an essay in the new issue of Turnstyle: The SABR Journal of Baseball Arts. You can download or order a paperback copy now.
Yes, so, I’ve got another book in the hopper, and the sales numbers suggest most people will be happy to know that it’s a collection of baseball writing, and not one more volume of mopey, sad-sack short stories. It’s called The Only Way is the Steady Way, and it comes out April 2, 2021. It’s partly about Ichiro, partly about having kids and getting older, partly about hometowns, and baseball cards, and YouTube, and a little bit about a very not-famous pitcher named Dooley Womack. I mean, he’s only featured in one essay out of 27, but it’s a pretty good essay.
The exciting* news is that, though it’s just a shade over seven months away from actually being published, you can pre-order this thing now. That link is for my still/again publisher’s site; the fine people at Invisible Publishing keep forgiving me, and I’m very happy to repeatedly take advantage of their short memories. But I know this: a reckoning is coming.
If ordering directly from a scrappy independent Canadian literary publisher isn’t your thing, I have heard that you can also pre-order from the usual big sites. I know you know who I’m talking about, so I don’t have to actually name them. Do as your conscience dictates.
This Image Will Self-Destruct
If you follow the link above, or search for the book on one of those other sites, you’ll likely be met with the following image:
Be advised that’s what we in the business refer to as a temporary cover. The actual cover, when you get your hands on an honest-to-God copy, will be different. This one’s a placeholder, a hundred times prettier than a NO IMAGE AVAILABLE square, but still only roughly 1/1000th as attractive as what the inimitable Megan Fildes, Invisible’s in-house designer, will eventually whip up. Megan has masterminded the covers for all three of my books so far, and she’s outdone herself each time. I expect no less the fourth time around.
Some of you will note that the above image is but a re-coloured and -lettered version of the gorgeous face of The Utility of Boredom. That’s what happens when ease and exigency meet in a back alley and trade some hand-jive before agreeing to start a garage band. It’s fast and dirty but it also sounds pretty good, you know? Or looks pretty good, as the case may be.
I have to admit this dope new colourway intrigues me. It’s like the fire hydrants in the next town over that are yellow where the ones in your town are red. You still recognize the thing as a fire hydrant, but something about the remixed chromatic palette excites you in a way you can’t quite name.
On Publishing a Book During a Pandemic
I guess the elephant in the room warrants mention. Yes, I did have second thoughts about publishing a book of baseball reminiscence and drippy yearning for lost days when the world began to burn to the ground (more so). In the end, though, I reasoned that people still seem to need some kind of distraction. Besides, I’m a nostalgia pedlar, and I really didn’t know what else to do with my time (not since I gave up on homeschooling the kids, anyway), so we pushed ahead with the edits on the rather presumptuous notion that somebody, somewhere would be interested in reading the book in order to call up memories of an afternoon spent with Dad in a long-since demolished ballpark somewhere. That reader will likely shed a tear or two, and those tears are my fuel.
If you’re of the opinion that something as ultimately inconsequential as baseball/nostalgia/entertainment/distraction is the last thing anyone should be reading these days, no hard feelings. I get it. You do you.
On Promoting a Book During a Pandemic
Yeah, I don’t know. While nobody’s actually said as much to my face, the long silences during lunch meetings and the pregnant pauses before my emails are returned suggest that everybody’s thinking what you’ve likely noticed if you’ve been paying any sort of attention: I’m a complete and utter idiot when it comes to promoting my own work. So maybe it can’t get any worse?
I’m social media-averse. I’m off Facebook, haven’t done Twitter in years, and I’ve never been on TikTok. I have an Instagram account that I’ve used precisely once. I’m out of touch, not out of fear or incompetence, but because I never liked the way these sites/apps/communities fit into my life, and repping myself and my work on them never felt natural. I don’t want to bug you with constant demands that you pay attention to, or rush out and purchase, my writing. I know you’ve got other things to worry about. I don’t shout about my books, though maybe I’d be better off if I did. But I just don’t feel right doing it.
I do like taking photos, though, so maybe—maybe—I’ll break down and start using the ‘gram. Will it make me famous? I guess you’ll have to wait and see. (Spoiler: it will not.)
Anyway, I do willingly participate in live events. Readings, panels, that sort of thing. And while the epidemiological landscape might suggest that those things will remain a bad idea for the entire, brief promotional life of this next book, I have also participated in virtual events—Zoom panels! which is just about the most depressingly apt pairing of words to describe our long collective hell—and found them to be like imitation crab: not quite as good as the real thing, but a relatively decent substitute. I’ve had appreciative people buy me beers at in-person book launches, and that’s yet to happen during a Zoom event, but folks have said some nice things, so that’s something, I guess.
So the bottom line is this: if a miracle cure comes online and we all beat this damn virus between now and April I’ll be in your backyard doing a reading and hand-selling copies of the book. If not, I’ll be on an intermittently frozen digital panel or reading near you. Check your local listings.
On the Impermanence of Truth
There are a lot of things in this book—the book being about baseball, and baseball going totally haywire and subbing a dumb video game version of itself for an actual 2020 season, when it’s clear that no season should’ve been played at all, due to the ongoing risk to life posed by the novel coronavirus, and also, you know, the world going totally to shit—that might not be true by the time the book is actually printed. We’re trying to stay on top of things—we being the august brain-trust of Invisible Publishing, Inc., and my kickass editor Andrew Faulkner, and myself—and leaving ourselves little pink and yellow sticky notes as reminders to revisit certain points and truth claims and so forth in the literal hours and minutes before printing in an effort to shore up the veracity of each sentence and word and so, as a cumulative result, the book as a whole. But I won’t lie to you: a lot can go wrong between now and then. We’re trying here, but I can’t make any guarantees.
Hey, congratulations, you’ve almost made it to the end of what I’m pretty sure is the longest post in the history of this website. Don’t worry, the end is near.
What I most want to say to you is this: your support matters. If you want to help out a writer, and a small publisher, and your local independent bookstore (and those could really use your help these days), please consider pre-ordering the book. And if/once you do get your hands on the book, should you enjoy it and think it worth mentioning to other readers, please review the book at one of the many places online chronically thirsty for such opinions. These things take a total of about 48 seconds to do, but they really do help.
One Last Thing
Thanks for reading this, and the book (or any of my stuff), if applicable. I know I don’t typically churn out feel-good material, but I hope something I produce might be of some use or pleasure to you. Writing’s always an effort to reach out, and now, as the wires continue to fray and the signals all go buzzy and nonsensical, that feels more important than ever. I hope that something I’ve written might find you and give you a moment of respite, or escape, or appreciation, or recognition, or whatever it is you come to literature to find.
Thanks, and be well.
* I think it’s safe to say that one universal outcome of the horrific farce we’ll diplomatically call “2020” is that everybody’s definition of “exciting” has been readjusted, probably permanently.
Pictured: Ichiro (artist’s rendition)
At the end of East 45th Street, Greta Thunberg stood before world leaders at the UN General Assembly, and said, “You are failing us.” Up in the Bronx, the Yankees had just won their 102nd game of the season and enjoyed a nine-game cushion over the Rays.
I have a new essay, “Love in the time of,” in the upcoming issue of Turnstyle: The SABR Journal of Baseball Arts. If you’re a baseball fan and you’re not already a member, consider joining SABR for access to this and dozens of other publications.
The next night the Astros walloped Baltimore 23-2, with Álvarez homering three times, including a grand slam, for a total of seven RBI. But the Yordan Álvarez of Friday night’s third inning strikeout is of greater interest to me. He stands at the nexus of innumerable convergences: strains of information, history, prognosis and apology, wayward currents pinched to a single point in space. He’s an individual upright but unguarded, caught in 1/100th of a second and preserved against a background, that great brick facade vivid but blurred, which suggests that he is stalked by uncertainties. The thick, hazy air of a dog day’s evening makes time’s immateriality evident. Much has come unmoored.
The Mattawa River Writers Festival is now an online affair. I’ll be speaking, reading, and holding a Q and A via Zoom beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern on April 22nd. Register here. All MWRF events are now free, but donations are accepted and appreciated, as this is the Canadian Ecology Centre’s big annual fundraiser. Hope you’ll join me and witness my fumbling attempts to master the technology. It’s a great lineup; I’d suggest making a day of it, if you’re free.
UPDATE: the event was recorded, and it’s now up on YouTube. Enjoy?
Central among my beliefs is that the 1987 Topps set is the finest collection of baseball cards ever produced. There are no hard facts to support this claim, only my personal zealotry, and though I understand that my love is highly subjective, and the product of timing and circumstance as much as it is of accomplishment in design, I’m unshakable: this is the set, this is the year.
— “Simulacra,” for SABR’s Baseball Cards Blog
For all its prideful stubbornness, baseball has evolved, but in the virtual stream it becomes an ahistorical soup, the ’77 Yankees rubbing up against the 2001 Mariners and the ’68 Cardinals. We Are Family and the Big Red Machine and the Cardiac Kids and the Amazin’s and Nos Amours. Exhibitions, early-season snoozers, All-Star Games, World Series nail-biters. In YouTube’s chronological blender, Ken Griffey Jr. is always chugging around third on Edgar’s double to beat the Yankees, Mark Fidrych is always a goofy, charismatic rookie phenom on the rise, and Ichiro is always delivering a long-distance precision strike to nab Terrence Long at third. Picture quality careens from black-and-white abstraction to grainy videotape—but it’s all baseball, and at this moment that’s all I need it to be.
— “A Means of Coping,” for The Hardball Times
If you’re in self-isolation and you’ve already burned through your pile of books, skip over to Invisible Publishing to grab some ebooks. The best part? Pay whatever you choose, AND one hundred percent of proceeds go to the authors. (I guess that’s two parts.) So you can scoop up my books, but also dozens of other staggeringly wonderful titles from writers like Michelle Winters, Seyward Goodhand, Tyler Hellard, HB Hogan… Fiction, poetry, nonfiction. Fill your phone or laptop or tablet or e-reader (does anyone still use those?), make your isolation more enjoyable, support independent Canadian publishing, and toss some money at Canadian authors. Everybody wins!
UPDATE (3/18/2020): The Matawa River Writers Festival has been postponed in light of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Please watch this space or the festival website for announcements regarding what form the rescheduled event will take. Stay safe, everyone! Stay home!
I’ll be speaking at the Canadian Ecology Centre in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park in April as part of the Mattawa River Writers Festival. Really looking forward to this one. Registration is now open for this amazing weekend, and it would be great to see you there.
I have a piece entitled “Describing the Days Ahead: A cli-fi primer” in Canadian Notes and Queries’ special issue, Writing in the Age of Unravelling. Working with guest editors Sharon English and Patricia Robertson was a great experience, and I’m grateful to them for including my article in this timely collection.