The Thrill of the Grass
If I throw out W.P. Kinsella’s name as a proverbial first pitch, a baseball metaphor of which I’m not sure Mr. Kinsella would approve, I’ll get a lot of blank stares. “Who in the world is that?” they’ll say. But if I ask how many times they’ve watched the movie Field of Dreams, well, not everyone will have seen it, but most will know what I’m talking about. Kinsella, of course, is the author of the novel on which the movie was based, and although his career as a creator of baseball fiction has been rocky at times, he’s still at it.Read More / Leave Comment»
How to Keep Readers Riveted When They Know the End
I’m in the middle of reading the story, but it’s already so good I have to let you all know about it. In 1924 George Mallory led a British expedition in an attempt to climb Mount Everest “for the honor of King and Country.” It was his third attempt to scale the mountain, and the historical record is clear. He, along with another mountaineer, died trying. George’s body was discovered in 1999, high up on Everett’s icy slopes. So how do you write a novel about a historical event whose tragic result is so well known that it’s the stuff of legends, and still keep readers riveted?
The short answer is this: Grab a copy of Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things and read it. Rideout takes a unique perspective by narrating the tale through the lens of the love story between George and Ruth Mallory. In the Author’s Note at the end of the book (I couldn’t help skipping ahead to it), Rideout tells us “she couldn’t help wondering what it would mean to be married to a man like George Mallory. What would it be like to be left behind for months at a time with nothing but long-delayed letters, delivered by a steamer, to soothe your worries?” Soon, she “found myself writing a novel.”Read More / Leave Comment»
Coming Attractions on the Fiction and Sports Blender
Hi everyone. It seems a lot of life is happening this summer, which is a good thing, except that this little blog is suffering a little for it. So, to let everyone know I’m still here, and because I don’t have a knockout post ready to go, I thought I’d provide a little taste of what’s ahead.
Though my writing output isn’t what I’d like, I have been reading some terrific books, and a few are sitting on my bookshelf and begging me to pick them next. At the moment, I’m in the middle of a book by Karen Joy Fowler of The Jane Austen Book Club fame. The Sweetheart Season, a novel set during World War II, portrays the humorous adventures of a women’s baseball team. I’ve also started Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things, a fictionalized version of George Mallory’s quest to climb Mt. Everest. And then there’s Laura Disilverio’s mystery Swift Edge, Tom Perotta’s The Abstinence Teacher (girl’s soccer is featured prominently), Ron Irwin’s Flatwater Tuesday (rowing), a collection of Dick Francis horse racing stories, Harlen Coben’s Play Dead, P.G. Wodehouse’s golf stories, and, well, quite a few more. Look for musings on these in the weeks ahead.
My next novel is still in the formative stages. Though it will certainly involve sports (baseball, to be specific), I plan to market it as historical fiction set in 1958 Portland, and it will feature the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. I’m finding the setting especially intriguing. 1958 was the first year that the Dodgers and Giants played on the west coast, and their move from New York heralded the demise of the Pacific Coast League, which in the early 50′s nearly became a third major league, on a par with the American and National Leagues. And from what I’ve read, Portland was a hotbed of organized crime in that era. So I don’t think I’ll have much trouble finding obstacles and conflict for my characters. But I’ve got to do some research so I don’t have my hero traveling north on an east-west street or visiting some store that didn’t exist. Which means I need to review 1958 Portland newspapers, and I’m currently trying to find the best way to do that. If I find any interesting tidbits, I’ll pass them on here. And once I get going on setting down the first draft, I’ll share some of my experiences along with a few excerpts so you all can tell me what seems to be working and what isn’t.
So, now you know, there’s a lot coming up on the Fiction & Sports Blender. I hope everyone keeps checking in.
In her nonfiction book On Boxing, Oates says her own interest in boxing sprang out of her father’s interest. I confess I have not read this work, but in the Amazon sample Oates concludes that although boxing is not a good metaphor for life, life serves as a metaphor for boxing. “Life is like boxing in so many unsettling respects. But boxing is only like boxing.”
In the Foreword, she says this: “No other subject is, for the writer, so intensely personal as boxing. To write about boxing is to write about oneself—however elliptically and unintentionally. And to write about boxing is to be forced to contemplate not only boxing, but the perimeters of civilization—what it is, or should be, to be ‘human.’
When I was writing On Boxing, in the grip of a curious, inexplicable compulsion, from February 1985 (when I drafted a short story titled ‘Golden Gloves’—I never understood why) to spring 1987, it happened that I was riding the crest, without knowing it, of a triumphant era in this turbulent and always precarious American ‘sport.’ ”
I don’t know how Oates feels about other sports, although she did write another short story titled “The Swimmers,” but I am glad that somebody with such a decorated literary resume (National Book Award, and three, count ‘em, Pulitzer nominations—I doubt she’d much go for the “third time being the charm” metaphor either) has embraced the arena of “sport” as a topic worth writing about. Even if she uses quotation marks around the word.Read More / Leave Comment»
Another Woman Takes on the Guys
How about a story where a woman, say, someone who happens to be blessed with a spectacular sports talent, beats the best professional male athletes at their own game? Great idea for a novel, maybe? No, I’m not talking about The Victors Club, because it turns out another author also thought this idea might make a good book. And, I’m happy to say, his novel has garnered enough attention to generate 62 reviews on Amazon and 143 reviews on Goodreads. I’m most pleased to find an author who has found success with such a book, so I consider it a special honor to feature Joseph Wallace and his novel Diamond Ruby on this edition of the Fiction and Sports Blender.
Diamond Ruby opens on a perfect sunny day as Ruby Thomas, seven years old, and her whole family watch the Brooklyn Superbas play baseball at Ebbets Field. It’s the last day Ruby remembers being happy, however, as one tragedy follows another. By the time she’s seventeen, the duty to care for her two nieces is thrust upon her, and she must somehow eke out a living in the bustling world of 1920s New York City, a place where nobody seems to care about anyone else. But, along with plenty of grit, Ruby boasts a most unique ability: She can throw a ball as fast and as accurate as the best pitchers in baseball.Read More / Leave Comment»