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.
— Andrew Kaufman, National Post
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.
— Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
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
The Puritan has published a detailed and thoughtful review/critical essay of What You Need, written by Jeremy Hanson-Finger. I’m grateful to the author as well as to the editors of The Puritan for the light they shine on independent Canadian literature.
From “I Just Wanna Be Around Adults, Really: Masculinity in Andrew Forbes’ What You Need“:
What You Need […] explores the negative effects of this nostalgia for simple male archetypes with a combination of earnestness and satire. […] 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…
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 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
[T]he writing… is well-crafted. What You Need is compelling reading.
— Jade Colbert, “Three fiction debuts worth a read,” The Globe and Mail