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
An ad in Friday’s Examiner touted the following day’s contest “the Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played in Peterborough,” pitting “American Stars vs. Wellington Semi-Pro. Team of Toronto,” to be played at Riverside Park, “Peterboro.” Also in that day’s edition: several pages of World Series coverage, including a photo of the Giants’ Frankie Frisch getting caught stealing second, and another of Ruth, mid-swing, looking classically Ruthian.
— “The Time Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb Led a Group of Players to Ontario for Hunting and Baseball,” for VICE Sports Canada
If you wanted to affirm a belief in heaven, Griffey’s swing was all the evidence you needed. The effortless motion’s provenance was clear. It was archetypal, a natural marriage of grace and power, something rare and intoxicating. We all just wanted to watch him hit.
— “Ken Griffey, Jr., Greatness, and the Way Things Were,” for The Cauldron
There’s a persistent tug in me toward baseball, and the idea of how it should be played. I want to call out to my boys, “Stand there!” “Run that way!” “Catch the ball!” I do allow myself one outburst, when Cormac stands on first base with his glove on his right hand. “Cormac!” I call, “the glove goes on the hand you don’t throw with!” He waves and smiles and switches hands, though it won’t matter when the ball next comes his way; it’ll sail by, unbothered, just the same.
— “The Glove Goes On the Hand You Don’t Throw With,” for The Classical
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.
— Andrew Kaufman, National Post
[Exhibition Stadium] was a terrible spot for a ballgame, with its inelegant configuration, hard aluminum bleachers, and that awful, unyielding turf which essentially amounted to bright green plastic carpeting spread over a parking lot. It looked bad and it played worse; your knees hurt just looking at that stuff.
But I’m reminded, too, of what used to occur on that surface, specifically the broad space beyond the circular sliding pits, the expanse of ground from foul pole to foul pole, and of the men who for a handful of years stood sentinel over it, from left to right: Bell, Moseby, and Barfield.
— “And Barfield in Right,” for 1980s Baseball
Baseball, like Whitman, gives me glimpses of what once was, scraps of history with varying degrees of relevance to the way we/they live now. Mostly it’s myth and symbol, lingering ideas and images that please but don’t do much to inform.
— at The Town Crier blog, I spoke with E Martin Nolan about the connection between Whitman and baseball, for The Puritan‘s annual Omnibus Interview
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.
— “Defunct,” from The Utility of Boredom, excerpted on Eephus