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Tag: richard ford

Blaming the Game

In 1993, the acclaimed novelist Richard Ford wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Stop Blaming Baseball.”

Check it out:

Sometimes I think it might be instructive just to turn my fan’s back on the game, vote with my feet, find new books to read, go hunting in October, fishing in April, let baseball crash and burn and see what comes up from the ashes. That’s the American way, too: chop down all the trees, kill the animals, pollute the rivers, then try to figure out what to do with the real estate. (It may be happening anyway.)

Or less severely, I’ve thought we could just call baseball off for a year or two. Take a breather. Clear our heads of all the clatter and clack. Fewer of us than we suppose might mind — mostly the writers would mind.

But finally it’s not even that important to me. I would feel silly acting betrayed, as some do, and taking extreme measures just because my national pastime won’t allow me the precise same pleasures it always has. And so, in a purely self-serving way, I have declared myself willing to reorder my priorities (you have to work earnestly for your illusions). And excepting for my own list of suggested alterations, I’m willing to use my imagination to believe that baseball will stay enough the same for me to go on liking it as it faces the difficult challenges of coming into a new century unexempt from antitrust, sharing its precious revenues, paying its players more but making them not that much happier and somehow resisting the urge to become more and more like jai alai. I still sincerely wish somebody would get rid of the goddamn mascots, and I wish ballplayers, especially those who’re making unusually large sums but for some reason “are not seeing the ball well enough this year,” would quit telling me that they’re out there to have fun when they don’t seem to be having that much and when I don’t really care to begin with.

[Photo Credit: Ashley Littlefoot and  Chuck Garfien via It’s a Long Season;

Going Deep

I have tried to read Richard Ford’s “The Sportswriter” on a few occasions and have not be able to get into it. His short stories have been recommended to me, and after reading Andre Dubus III’s glowing review of Ford’s new book, I may have to give him another shot:

Willa Cather once wrote that “a creative writer can do his best only with what lies within the range and character of his deepest sympathies.” By that measure, and any other, Richard Ford is doing his very best in his extraordinary new novel, “Canada,” his first book since “The Lay of the Land” six years ago. Here, Ford is clearly writing within the range and character of his deepest sympathies — in this case, from the point of view of an abandoned 15-year-old boy — and he’s doing it with a level of linguistic mastery that is rivaled by few, if any, in American letters today.

…On a purely plot-hungry basis, turning the page seems the only thing to do, but — as is so often the case with the fiction of Richard Ford — what actually happens in the story feels secondary, or at best equal, to the language itself. In the hands of a lesser writer, this can create problems: the prose begins to feel self-indulgent, written not to illuminate any truths but to please the writer, and in the process, story itself is lost and the reader is left behind. But “Canada” is blessed with two essential strengths in equal measure — a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next.

Here’s the Paris Review interview with Ford. Dig in.

The Play is the Thing

“The tendency among spoilsport sportswriters is to make it all so so elegiac and bittersweet—to like us to see our own lives (easier for men, of course) in these [minor leaguers’] prospects; to make it all a gooey-nostalgic allegory for trying and failing while still young, an emblem for rum life lived well instead of just being an emblem for itself—is baloney and I’m not wrong about it. Believe me, I don’t see myself in those boys’ lives. They’re not my vicars, and I don’t fantasize—at least not about them. I go to the game to quit thinking about my life, to sit and stare at a pleasant field I know on which is played a game I also know by players whose lives, wives, drug and betting habits, childhood tragedies, and religious infatuations I don’t know and don’t want to. I’m just there to watch, to be pleased, maybe even thrilled, but not, God help me, to take moral instruction.”

Richard Ford, “A Minors Affair” [excerpt] (Harper’s, September 1992)

Thanks to the excellent site, It’s a Long Season, for the picture of Buster and the quote.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver