This persistent little book has just entered a new printing — its fifth — the first to feature any editorial changes. Over at the Invisiblog I wrote about that small change, and why it felt necessary to do now.
From Primitive Replica, here’s the trailer for the baseball book. They approached me shortly after Utility was published and said they wanted to turn it into a short film/trailer. I watched a few of their videos and then said yes without reservation. It was wonderful to work with Sean and Henry, and I couldn’t be happier with the results (except for the part where they captured that flat-footed swing of mine, which clearly demonstrates that when it comes to the ballplayer-vs-writer question, I chose the right path). Follow the link to watch the rest of their stuff, and if you’re a creative enterprise in need of a video of some sort (in and around Toronto), consider contracting their services. They’re smart, professional, and collectively they have a great eye.
As for the trailer, I’d be grateful if you’d share it if/as you see fit.
(And yes, that is a 1951 Minneapolis Millers jersey I’m wearing in the batting cage, with Willie Mays’ number on the back. That’s from Ebbets Field Flannels.)
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.
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
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
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 about a love of, or at least an acceptance of, the fact that losing is part of the game.
Authenticity is a thing we may move toward but never touch; if it’s to be found at all, it approaches us. But make no mistake, in buying these caps and memorizing the names of players and owners and stadiums from 20 years ago or better I’m attempting to will myself toward something authentic.
You a baseball fan? If yes, then you know Forbes intends no insult in saying that baseball is boring. “Boredom is potential. Boredom is the basic element of all of baseball’s dramas.” Too true, and quite unlike this fast-paced collection of short hits on the subject of a game the Peterborough, Ont., writer has loved since he was a kid: Forbes’s baseball diamond has 24 essays covering a mere 150 pages. So he moves like the blazes. He begins with “Sanctuary,” likening the stadium to a house of worship. He ends with “162,” the end of the season, when 10 teams vie for the championship. In between, he immerses the reader in virtually every lackadaisical thought to which baseball lends itself.
Despite the worst title in the history of baseball books, The Utility of Boredom by Canadian Andrew Forbes is a delightful collection of 25 baseball essays. Short (six or seven pages at most) and highly personal (as essays should be), these brief ruminations are often lyrical, as well. They display both deep familiarity with and affection for various aspects of baseball. Whether the overt subjects are rain delays (“Lost in the Fog”) and disbanded teams (“Defunct”) or profiles (“The D-Train at Rest”) and a botched World Series call (“Tagged”), the underlying subject is usually the ways baseball affects its fans; and Forbes is invariably able to make these effects seem palpable and important. [The Utility of Boredom] will yield numerous moments of quiet satisfaction to readers willing to give it the close attention it deserves.
— Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine
[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