Here’s the gorgeous cover for La Constance d’Ichiro : Nouveaux textes de balle, VF de The Only Way Is the Steady Way. Translated by Daniel Grenier and William S. Messier, designed by Benoit Tardif, and available November 8 from Les éditions de ta mère.
As it’s been a month or eight since I last updated the site, here’s a roundup of goings on and publications and conversations since I last opened the WordPress editor:
- For the book recommendation site Shepherd I compiled a list of books that master the trick of placing baseball in a broader historical context
- For the SABR baseball card research committee blog I wrote about why it can be tempting to not open a pack of baseball cards
- Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf is a great online repository of publications about the game; I spoke to Ron himself about The Only Way Is the Steady Way, The Utility of Boredom, kids, the Blue Jays, the rules of collecting ballcaps, and more
- Despite being Yankees fans, the folks over at Start Spreading the News turn out to be nice people, and I spoke to them about Ichiro, how I’d “fix” baseball, etc.
We here in Ontario are about to go into another lockdown, and the air outside my window is adance with snow flurries, but it’s Opening Day, damn it, and so we rejoice and find gladness in the promise of a new season. Tomorrow, April 2, is the official publication date of The Only Way Is the Steady Way, so chosen because it’s also the twentieth anniversary of Ichiro’s MLB debut. It’s also the fifth anniversary of the publication of The Utility of Boredom. That one was a coincidence, but it’s still worth noting. Regarding the former, there have been some developments—articles, appearances, etc.—that I’ll endeavour to round up here:
- The Walrus (“Canada’s Conversation”) features an excerpt of the book, “Why Home Runs Are Bad for Baseball” (from the essay “American Berserk”)
- I appeared on a recent episode of Justin McGuire’s Baseball By the Book podcast (listen to it here or anywhere you get your podcasts)
- For Baseball Prospectus, I mourned the passing of the New York-Penn League
- For the Pandemic Baseball Book Club, I interviewed Luke Epplin about his new book, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball
- I answered a few questions about the book for the Pandemic Baseball Book Club’s newsletter
- Registration is now open for the virtual book launch presented by the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and hosted by the estimable Sean Cranbury of the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series (April 25, 3:00 p.m. EST)
That’s it for now, but there’ll be a lot more stuff in the near future, including interviews and podcasts. Stay tuned.
You do this for long enough, and you begin to crave originality like a desert wanderer craves cool clear water. Andrew Forbes’s essays are cool and clear and may well slake the thirst of any thinking baseball fan.—Rob Neyer, author of Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game
The Only Way Is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game will be available April 2 from Invisible Publishing, but you can pre-order it 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)
That an inactive fansite should survive such a span of time – three administrations, several wars, five Star Wars films – is not remarkable. The internet is vast, and great swaths of it have succumbed to link rot, domain scrapers, the churn of ISPs, but most of it remains, hidden only by the great volume of new content. Your Blogger site is still kicking around somewhere, as is your Myspace page. These digital presences accumulate as a matter of course, and as we abandon them they spread out behind us like a wake.
— “Dispatch #7: ICHIRO SUZUKI, THE STAR OF BASEBALL,” for Sinkhole magazine
In American Pastoral, Philip Roth identified a strain of dark anxiety he deemed the “indigenous American berserk,” and the contemporary home run seems to speak to that anxiety, expressing aspects of America’s gobbling ambition, its voraciousness, the muscly sense that to grind a ball into dust is a better and more exclamatory statement than a thing done lightly or delicately.
— “Dispatch #5: American Berserk,” for Sinkhole magazine
What made the prospect of him continuing to play so alluring an idea for me was not simply the pure aesthetic joy of watching him toil in a fashion so idiosyncratic and stylistically anomalous that it seemed he was playing a different game altogether, but that his familiar presence put me in touch with the person I was a long time ago, a time and a person from which and from whom I am otherwise exceptionally distant.
— “Dispatch #4: Gradually, and then all of a sudden,” for Sinkhole magazine
Who tells the future Hall of Famer that his time is up? Is it up to the future Hall of Famer to know it himself? That’s what leads, of course, to potentially uncomfortable situations like this one. But maybe there isn’t another way. Maybe that fire which made a player like Ichiro as good as he for so long was is the same heat which prevents such individuals from giving up the fight until they’re forced to do so.
— “Dispatch #3: The sense of an ending,” for Sinkhole magazine
Prior to Ichiro in 2001, only pitchers had made the Pacific jump, which certainly contributed to the doubts confronting Ichiro that first spring. It also didn’t help that he had, and has, a body type more common among jockeys than sluggers. What became apparent, though, as that first summer warmed and then broke into its full floral display, was that Ichiro had a body and a set of skills perfectly suited to a style of play most certainly foreign to the homer-happy American game circa the turn of this century. In exploiting said game’s ample seams and pores, he found great – historic, in fact – success.
— “Dispatch #2: The weight of expectation,” for Sinkhole magazine