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
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