Speaking of Roger Angell…

…one of the finest sports writers I’ve ever read, there’s a lot of his work out there. A regular contributor (and longtime fiction editor) to The New Yorker since 1944, his essays have been collected into books, anthologies, etc. Links? Uh uh. You’re gonna hafta find ’em on your own. Don’t kid yourself, you can do it. The games and players he wrote about had no links. From whatever rural perspiration or urban sweat they came, serious ballplayers didn’t just walk up to the mounds and plates of diamonds, they had to work for it to get there. Just like you can do with or without a seventh inning beer.

But without going into extra innings, Roger Angell was born in 1920 and is still with us, still writing. The other day I found his essay “This Old Man” from The New Yorker. Read it. The most certain thing about existence is death, and life is too short to be ambushed by superfluous gifs and extraneous links.

Floatin’ Like A Butterfly!

The other day I got caught up in some “discussions” on the subject of Sports vs The Arts. I’m not a huge sports fan but I do enjoy the concept of the game and of competition itself. This is not an endorsement of “militarism 101,” as a certain friend of mine will insist. If anything, fair sports play tends to defuse belligerence and violent hostility rather than promote it. Although, I do agree with her that the NFL is a crock of capitalistic shit and, furthermore, it’s my opinion that professional American sports are headed for a toppling of financial importance. But that’s a whole ‘nother rant, and I’m not here to inflict the evils of the game onto its players. Heroes or villains, they’re human beings who have their own share of problems that most non-players won’t understand.

Another friend, who I didn’t suspect of having any affinity for sports, put on the table the words of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton:

“…I just want to become relatable, you know what I’m saying? It’s bigger than race. It’s more so of opening up a door for guys that don’t want to be labeled, that have bigger views and say: ‘Well, I’m in this situation, I’m living in this environment right now, but I also want to be an artist, I want to be a poet. But I don’t have the means, you know, to necessarily do the right things at this point.’ As for me, I just want to give those people hope.”

ali01Smart man. Sounds like he’s got some stories to tell and I hope he writes them down. I’ll read that book, just as I’ve read classic sports writing by guys like Roger Angell and Troy Soos (whose novel “Hanging Curve” I recommend highly). But this whole thing made me remember the poetry of one of America’s greatest athletes and, like it or not, purveyors of pugilism, Muhammad Ali. I don’t care what anyone says, Ali’s poetry was easily on par with the comic verse of Ernest Thayer:

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale;
Handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail;
Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick;
I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”

and

“Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat.
If Liston goes back an inch farther, he’ll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings to the left, Clay swings to the right!
Look at Cassius carry the fight!
Liston keeps backing, but there’s not enough room.
It’s a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom.
Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing!
And the punch raises the bear clear out of the ring.
Yes the crowd did not dream when they laid down their money
that they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.”

Once reviled, the man persevered and proved he was a king. He remains so. The Lord of The Ring. A great American who stood up, ready to fight for what he believed, and knew how he wanted to be remembered:

“I’d like for them to say he took a few cups of love, he took one tablespoon of patience, one teaspoon of generosity, one pint of kindness, he took one quart of laughter, one pinch of concern, and then he mixed willingness with happiness. He added lots of faith and he stirred it up well. Then he spread it over the span of a lifetime and he served to each and every deserving person he met.”

I salute you, Muhammad. Against the world may you have the last word:

“I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be who I wanna be and think what I wanna think.”

Remember, He Wasn’t There

It was a @WriterlyTweets prompt on March 2—“In six words or fewer, write a story about a mind-altering experiment.” Sometimes you just gotta share the story (in this case, six words per line…):

Dock Ellis, O, pitches had stung,
and Nixon barked “Aye, he swung!”
on balls yea big, yea small,
a day he does not recall.

hogh_dockI don’t think the protagonist did it as an experiment, but he would agree it was definitely an experience, as much as he could remember of it. June 12, 1970 in San Diego, CA; Pirates vs Padres. To hell with the politicians, preachers and pundits. This is the kind of thing that makes America GREAT!

 

Never Bring a Book to a Word Fight

I’ve lost that battle many times. I’ll lose it again. You’ll laugh again.

9780802124371It’s the last gasp of end-of-the-year summations, a concept that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. To circle a hot, burning star and make definitive judgements based on where the journey always ends before it starts? To rationalize nothing being something that the nothing is? In this lies the seed of all comedy and tragedy. Just don’t take my word for it. You’ll be disappointed because, for once, I’ve got a post-yuletide shopping recommendation. That’s rare, and like hell if I make any resolutions for the next round of disappointments. But this might serve someone nicely. It’s all I’ve got and it keeps me out of loud bars and most other desperate situations.

I’ve been a follower of @NeinQuarterly on Twitter and I bought the impending “Nein. A Manifesto”—Eric Jarosinski’s book that uses a few words to say what most books attempt with many. A “failed intellectual,” he fled the ivory tower and showed a smiling finger to academia, philosophy and wheezing, positivist platitudes. Last month I posted a customer review on Amazon but failed to tell anyone. Right or wrong, I’m announcing it now. And if the world ends before midnight “happys” get exchanged, you can blame me.

Abrasion in the Sun? (what fun!)

I know I must not think bad thoughts but, a coupla years back a certain (unnamed) literary journal offered “instant submission feedback” for a $5.00 fee. They were trying to pump up their finances to stay afloat. I hadn’t been getting ANY feedback from ANY submissions from ANYONE so I figured what the hell? It’s only 5 bucks. So…fly

…I submitted a story.
I sent em the $.
I got feedback within 48 hours—smug, self-important, dismissive, and reeking of symptoms that the editor had mostly skimmed it rather than read it. Sure. Why not? It was his game.

Well, either my submission broke them or they were gonna go under anyway. Today I got an unexpected email that confirmed their “fundraising” didn’t do them any good. I suppose my $5 bought someone a fancy beer, so here’s to independent publishing! And beware of journals offering *instant* anything. It’s much nicer to wait and wait and wait just to receive no word, no feedback at all. And not be woken by dreams or nightmares deferred. <hitting snooze alarm and smiling back to sleep>

A Coloured Purple Favor

There is guilt, there is pleasure. I fear neither. If forced to choose between them, I prefer pleasure as it is much more versatile in today’s world, and I imagine the same held true in the classical world of English literature. The only difference historically is that the traditionalists were quick to dismiss any and all references to adult carnal enjoyment as merely “base” or, in the vernacular of Monty Python, “tinny, woody sausage.” The classicists knew which side of the plate their crumpets were buttered on, and in which unlocked bedrooms their favorite loyal servants slept. And, failure to rise to the occasion or not, there was always the penny dreadful guilt of it all.

moz02But none of this was meant to keep anyone from living life to the fullest. In the time-honored tradition of merry olde Manchester, our boy Morrissey (yes, THAT Morrissey) is an author neither afraid of guilt nor lack of editing, nor of typing away whilst under the influence of a six-pack of Smith-Corona Light. Pleasure? Why not? Purple prose doesn’t get much purpler than this!

“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”

Whacked and smacked. Yes. Words to tickle Tesco Vee’s testicles with the black feather of the bird that almost crowed “No, Nay, Nevermore…” I’m sure young Moz’s mum adverbially washed his mouth with soap one day and, no doubt, he liked the taste. But there’s so much and so many more as the 2015 Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards will attest. Enjoy.moz03

Quotation Thief Revealed…

As reported back in July, someone had quoted me in Pitchfork Magazine and I didn’t know who’d dunnit. Well, now I can report to the world that SPOT did it. The nervy knave! But I should have figured since he’s one of my beta readers. PM had done a cover feature on his photography book “Sounds of Two Eyes Opening” in Pitchfork Review #6. According to him, the (unnamed) writer of the article lost the original interview the day before deadline and sent him a quick list of questions which he quickly answered and inserted a bit of an unpublished WIP and “forgot” to tell me. Uh huh. But it’s OK since the quote credited me and there was no misrepresentation. Uh huh. Thanks. I think.