Books

The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays

 

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Published April 4, 2016

[Order from Invisible Publishing]

A collection of essays for ardent seamheads and casual baseball fans alike, The Utility of Boredom is a book about finding respite and comfort in the order, traditions, and rituals of baseball. From learning about America through ball-diamond visits to the most famous triple play that never happened on Canadian soil, Forbes invites us to witness the adult conversing with the O-Pee-Chee baseball cards of his youth. Tender, insightful, and with the slow heartbreak familiar to anyone who’s cheered on a losing team, The Utility of Boredom tells us a thing or two about the sport, and how a seemingly trivial game might help us make sense of our messy lives.

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“Baseball is a welcome obsession of mine, a comfort. Reading The Utility of Boredom by Andrew Forbes fed that obsession beautifully, warmly. It glows. He writes of baseball as sanctuary, baseball in both general terms and specifics—from the feeling of walking into a ballpark on a summer day to Vin Scully’s perfect description of a cloud. He invites us to get on our tiptoes and peek over the fence, smell the grass, hear the crack of the bat. He respects the slow-glory of the game, he loves the game, he’s really good at this, and I absolutely trust him with my baseball-heart.”

— Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss A War

 

“Baseball, like life, is getting flattened out these days, compressed to noisy highlight clips and shrill pontification. This book cures that flattening, reaching with grace and poetry past all the bludgeoning hot takes and arid statistical analyses to the kinds of absurd and beautiful details—a spectacular throw from deep right; a meandering spring training game; a foul grounder bounding up into the stands, right at you—that first made us all fall in love with the sport. If baseball, like heaven, is a mansion with many rooms, the essays in The Utility of Boredom are like a fat set of janitor’s keys unlocking the wide open marvels of the game.”

— Josh Wilker, author of Cardboard Gods and Benchwarmer: A Sports-Obsessed Memoir of Fatherhood

 

“In all of these essays, Forbes’s writing is almost invisibly stunning, clear, with romantic flourishes equal to his subject matter. But what he’s really able to articulate is how a love of baseball is really about a love of, or at least an acceptance of, the fact that losing is part of the game.”

— Andrew Kaufman, National Post

 

“[Forbes] can tell a whole story in an opening sentence that leaves me cheering in the stands… Rest assured, The Utility of Boredom is far from boring. It’s a book to savour, like summer.”

— Ann Jaeger, Electric City Magazine

 

The Utility of Boredom… is a delightful collection of 25 baseball essays… [which] will yield numerous moments of quiet satisfaction to readers willing to give it the close attention it deserves.”

— Spitball Magazine

 

“[Forbes] immerses the reader in virtually every lackadaisical thought to which baseball lends itself.”

— Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star

 

“Taking his cues from Susan Sarandon’s character in Bull Durham, who worships at “the Church of Baseball,” secular humanist Forbes finds something close to religion in everything from José Bautista’s bat flip to the Billy Ripken error card. He is even willing to admit to the game’s essential slowness, in which he locates its Zen-like, meditative heart.”

— Quill & Quire

 

“A lovely, philosophical look at the sport of summer, this one suits diehard fanatics as well as the casual baseball fan.”

— Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

 

“Baseball, with its leisurely pace and unrelenting schedule, lends itself to the introspective writer willing to unpack the countless balls and strikes for something more. Andrew Forbes is one of the very best at this, and his essay collection is essential reading around the hot stove.”

— Eephus Magazine

 

 

What You Need: Stories

 

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Runner-up for the 2015 Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Trillium Book Award Finalist

 

Published April 15, 2015

[Order from Invisible Publishing]

Loyalties collide with long-buried love, a man builds a nuclear bomb in his garage, and helicopters ferry away the injured. What You Need is a collection of vital, honest stories told in a personal and urgent style. Forbes’s characters struggle to challenge their all too ordinary lives, falling victim to fate, to one another, and to self-sabotage. These are stories about failure and yearning, and they remind us of the humour and humanity in even the worst decisions.

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“In this quietly implosive collection, Forbes pulls us immediately into the emotional turbulence of his protagonists while navigating twisted paths to acutely real conclusions. A middle-aged Canadian finds romance in a seedy Florida motel, a laid-off electrician builds an atomic bomb in his garage, a love-struck teenager accidentally blows himself up, a car salesman searches for the smallest particle of domestic bliss, a football phenom seeks war on the defensive line. Forbes’s varied cast of damaged characters, in diverse settings, shares a universal search for affection, purpose, and hard-won, home-grown joy.”

— Trillium Award jury comment

 

“Andrew Forbes’ stories in What You Need are plainly spoken, his characters ending up in bar fights, playing high school sports and building thermonuclear devices in their garages. He has a gift for balancing good old-fashioned narratives with surprising implosions of fate. Voice and details are his strong point. Whether they’re digging up a dead friend or puzzling over their daughter’s ability to walk through walls, his characters are easy to relate to, they are true to themselves and they engage the reader, who can’t wait to turn the page. What You Need is insightful and intelligent, sharp and deep as bone.”

— Danuta Gleed Literary Award jury statement

 

“This collection’s title might seem to boast, but it arrives by way of a question posed in its first story: You got what you need? Our next question, then: What is it? That question permeates these stories, in some cases explicitly, though more often implied … What You Need is compelling reading.”

— Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

 

“Forbes’s characters are complex, yet don’t come across as over the top or unbelievable. They appear simply as normal folk dealing — with varying degrees of success — with what life throws at them…

“What You Need is a strong collection that leaves its reader wanting more.”

— Katie Ingram, Quill & Quire

 

“Andrew Forbes’ stories are beacons scanning human experience for its loneliest, most secret corners, and illuminating them with hope. At turns funny, inventive, thoughtful and sad, What You Need is an unassuming, surprisingly moving first book of short fiction, striking for the poise and authority of its language and the depth of its insights.”

— Pasha Malla, author of The Withdrawal Method and People Park

 

“In Andrew Forbes’ collection of 17 stories, What You Need, old-fashioned values are sometimes gut-punched by modern life. With echoes of Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, and the grace of Flannery O’Connor, Forbes is the real deal short story writer. Forbes’ deft story telling and distinctive, intimate voice takes the reader into the hearts and souls of his introspective characters’ little triumphs and tragedies. Tough, tender, visceral lyricism is always balanced with an ironic warmth, humour, and just enough hope.”

— Richard Taylor, author of House Inside the Waves

 

“What You Need is an excellent book, and arguably the debut of the year insofar as short fiction is concerned. Every character is fully realized and three-dimensional; every story sparkles with granular detail and the kind of profound emotional insight that only comes with having lived the difficult passage between the expectations of youth and the ambiguities of adulthood. The book is full of wit, and, despite its subject matter, laugh-out-loud funny in places.”

— Mark Dickinson, The Fiddlehead

 

“Forbes’s greatest success is in taking the high tragedy out of traditionally masculine narratives. His best stories elicit a sense of loss—not for unfulfilled archetypes, but for people who could have contributed to society in a more meaningful and responsible way if they had relinquished outmoded definitions of manhood, such as the athlete, the suburban dad, the protector, and the honourable suicide.”

— Jeremy Hanson-Finger, The Puritan

 

“Andrew Forbes‘ debut collection begins like you’ve just asked the quiet guy in the corner to tell you a story, and he does, without fanfare or flourish, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He just let’s the words unfold, and it’s somehow the most interesting thing you’ve heard all week. Forbes is a quiet, humble dude in the corner, and his thoughtful stories seem to flow effortlessly from him… These stories are well worth hearing.”

— The Book Stylist

 

“What You Need is the rare pleasurable read that’s as relatable as it is ambitious. Each story is a fully formed world that examines human nature in a number of forms: love, jealousy, rage, sorrow. There is a sense of aspiration, of reaching beyond one’s means (often to fall short), that is an immediately relatable trait found in all of Forbes’s characters.”

— All Lit Up

 

“These are stories to relish and savour.”

— Trevor Corkum, Little Fiction

 

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