Monthly Archives: March 2013

Books Acquired Recently

Bergen, David. The Age of Hope. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.

Bergen is one of my favorite novelists, and I just found out that he has a new book out. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published in the U.S. yet–aside from Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, Canadian writers get zero respect here–so I had to find a copy from Canada online. I was able to find one from a bookseller in Ontario via abebooks.com.

Braddock, Jeremy. Collecting as Modernist Practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2012.

I have always loved collecting things, so this book sounded appealing. As it turns out, the book considers anthologies as collections as well as discussing collecting objects, which is something that I am also quite interested in. I am looking forward to reading it. This, Lukas’s, and Wiebe’s books were bought from amazon.com.

Lukas, Paul. Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, from the Everyday to the Obscure. New York: Crown, 1997.

I really enjoy Lukas’s Uni Watch blog, in part because we share the same obsession with aesthetic detail. I just found out that he published this book on the subject fifteen years ago, and bought it right away. It looks like a nonfiction version of Nicholson Baker’s novel The Mezzanine, which is a good thing.

Wiebe, Dallas. Skyblue the Badass. Garden City: Doubleday, 1969.

I have been reading a fair amount of Mennonite literature over the past year after a long hiatus from the field. I’ve been struck by how few U.S. Mennonite novels there are in comparison to the Canadian tradition (including David Bergen), and have been making a concerted effort to read the few U.S. novels that do exist. Wiebe was one of the first U.S. Mennonite writers, but I’ve only read a few of his poems and one or two of his essays. All of his fiction is out of print, but I was able to find a copy of Skyblue the Badass (I couldn’t find any of Our Asian Journey) for $46.00. I bought it with some birthday cash. It’s in very good condition, and I love that the back cover has a note from my main man George Plimpton.

George Plimpton's note about Paris Review Editions.

George Plimpton’s note about Paris Review Editions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Thinking About Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry

I am hoping to visit New York City sometime this summer, and go to a Mets game. Last night I dreamt that I bought tickets to this game, and that Dwight Gooden would be pitching. I thought to myself, “How impressive that Gooden pitched the first game I ever attended, and he’ll be pitching this one, too. That’s a pretty good career.”

Gooden is long retired, but two of the three parts of that dream statement are true. Gooden pitched the first Mets game I ever attended, a win against Atlanta in 1985 (an account of this game can be found in Davey Johnson and Peter Golenbock’s book Bats [New York: Putnam, 1986] on page 210). Although I was unaware at the time of the amazing season Gooden was having (I was only five, so didn’t really understand the concept of statistics; Gooden went 24-4 that year with a 1.53 ERA and won the Cy Young Award), I already knew his name, and I love being able to say that I saw him in person during one of the best seasons any pitcher has ever had. The first Atlanta batter singled, but that was about it. The Mets won 16-4, and Darryl Strawberry (whose name I also knew) hit a grand slam. Also, the lady sitting next to me in the stands gave me some cookies (the weird thin wafer sandwich kind with vanilla creme layers, which were my favorite at the time), and my father bought me a pennant and a set of Mets wristbands, one of which I had to give to my sister when we got home.

People, myself included, tend to forget that Gooden had a good career because after the successes of his first few seasons he was supposed to have a great career. This potential was destroyed by drug abuse and its consequent legal problems. But he went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA over sixteen seasons–with a winning record in all but four of them–and was an All-Star four times. That is nothing to sneeze at. The same (all of it, alas) can be said for Strawberry’s career, in which he hit 335 homeruns over seventeen seasons with eight straight All-Star selections from 1984-1991.

I admit that when I think of both of these men I think about their disappointments first. Together, they were the Mets version of Anakin Skywalker: the chosen ones who failed to fulfill that role, falling victim to the Dark Side instead. But this attitude isn’t quite fair to them. Aside from their individual accomplishments, they played central roles on the 1986 championship team and 1988 division winners, when Strawberry should have been voted Most Valuable Player (though again, my first 1988-related thought of Gooden is about his failure to close game four of the NLCS, even though that was just as much Johnson’s fault for not taking him out as Gooden’s). They both seem to have found some peace in their turbulent personal lives, and it is time for us as fans to come to peace with their impressive careers as well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

USA 1 Costa Rica 0 in the Snow

The USA defeated Costa Rica 1-0 outside of Denver in a World Cup qualifier tonight, and what a spectacle! It snowed steadily–and at times heavily–the entire match. In fact, I’ve never seen such snow at a sporting event before. It was a crucial match for the USA, and they earned an essential three points, but I found myself not even thinking about the significance of the match as I watched because it was so much fun to watch the snow. Kudos to the referee for letting the match go its full length. The USA should qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and thus this result will just look like an early step on the road to qualification in the record book, but it will be a match that is remembered for years and years. It will be an event that one sees clips from on ESPN anytime the possibility of snow looms over a sporting event. I am happy I got to see it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

A Hilarious Photograph of the Harvard Band

Photograph © copyright by George Frey for the Associated Press.

Photograph © copyright by George Frey for the Associated Press.

Jay Caspian Kang has a hilarious column on grantland.com about this photograph of the Harvard band here. My favorite one is “Judith Butler.” I would love to know the bandmembers’ reactions to this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellaneous, Sports

Books Acquired Recently

Delany, Samuel R. The Mad Man. New York: Kasak, 1994.

I found this copy of the first edition of The Mad Man, one of my favorite Delany novels, online in good condition and for a good price from one of amazon.com’s independent sellers, so I decided to buy it. The second edition, published in 2002, is substantially revised, and is the one I reference in my work on Delany, thus I bought the first edition more as a piece of Delany memorabilia than as reading material.

Reimer, Al. Mennonite Literary Voices: Past and Present. North Newton: Bethel College, 1993.

I have been looking for a copy of this book on and off for over a decade, and finally found a copy surface on abebooks.com from a bookstore in Winnipeg. It is one of the early pieces of criticism on Mennonite literature, and I’ve been wanting to read it since taking a course in Mennonite literature in 2001.

Starlin, Jim, et al. Infinity Gauntlet. 1991. New York: Marvel, 2011.

This was a pure nostalgia purchase from amazon.com. I read the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries as a junior high schooler when it first came out, and recently had a conversation about it with a friend that inspired me to seek it out again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Books Acquired Recently: Massachusetts Writers Edition

Espada, Martín. The Trouble Ball. 2011. New York: Norton, 2012.

Espada gave a reading at my college this past Thursday, and I also had the privilege of having him speak in one of my classes. He is everything a writer should be: passionate, activist, happy to talk about his work, non-elitist. His poems are fun to read because they are vivid and engaging. The reading was one of the best I’ve ever been to, so buying his latest collection was an obvious decision.

One thing that I did not know about Espada is that he is a huge baseball fan. The Trouble Ball‘s title poem is about his father’s first visit to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and he is also working on a collection of essays about baseball and Latinos for Bloomsbury Press. I asked him who he roots for, and he said that he grew up a Mets fan, but switched to the Red Sox in 1986 because he was living in Massachusetts. Bill Simmons explains here why sports bigamy is wrong; Espada was immediately punished for his when the Mets defeated the Red Sox that year in one of the greatest World Series ever. But he and I both hate the Yankees, so he’s alright in my book. He also mentioned enjoying minor league baseball, and was happy to hear that Salt Lake City has a AAA team. Espada said his favorite baseball moment was game seven of the 2004 American League Championship Series when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees (he also made mention of the ninth inning of game four when Boston’s comeback began), and his second favorite moment was when Puerto Rico beat the USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Stoner, Kay. Strange Bedfellows: A Cautionary Tale for Times of Global Change. Bolton: Kay Stoner, 2010.

I first encountered Stoner’s work in Mennonot (she has a poem on page 16 of issue 2 and an article beginning on page 10 of issue 3, both of which may be accessed here), and found her to be an exciting pro-LGBT voice. I wanted to read more of her work, and uncovered the self-published novel Strange Bedfellows after doing some googling. It looks fascinating: Stoner claims that she dreamt it (shades of Coleridge!), and it includes images of some of her artwork to supplement the narrative.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Sports

Requiem for the Big East

Tonight is the final of the last Big East men’s basketball tournament. Yes, there will be a conference called the “Big East” next year that will include original Big East teams such as St. John’s and Georgetown, but the original Big East, the true Big East, dies tonight as a victim of the crazily shifting college sports landscape. It makes me happy that there is an original conference member, Syracuse, in the title game, and it feels just that there is also one of the newer members involved.

I no longer follow college sports because, as the recent Penn State football scandal showed, they have become “too big to fail” no matter what the consequences of keeping them afloat, and thus are detrimental to the educational mission of colleges and universities. But I will be watching the Syracuse-Louisville game tonight to pay homage to the Big East and the important role it played in my life. Some of my earliest sports memories are of hard-fought games between Syracuse, Georgetown, and St. John’s (Alas! Remember when St. John’s used to be good?) in the mid- to late-1980s on CBS, and I remember watching Big East tournament games on WWOR. As a teenager, I would rush home from school to watch early rounds of the tournament on ESPN with Sean McDonough and, especially, Bill Raftery announcing (“Sean McDonough, Syracuse comes out playing mantoman!” Of course Syracuse always plays a 2-3 zone, but I’ve heard Raftery use his tagline on the Orange anyway, and I would be disappointed if he didn’t.).

I was a Syracuse fan, but I always rooted for the conference, as well. It was a matter of regional pride. Yes, I hate Georgetown, but I’d root for them against an ACC team any day (The same with UConn. It kills me that Syracuse will be in the ACC next year.). It is sad to see an institution that has always felt like home to me go away.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Books Acquired Recently

Everett, Percival. Percival Everett by Virgil Russell. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2013.

I’ve only read one of Everett’s previous novels, Erasure, and loved it. I decided that acquiring his latest book would be a good way to begin reading the rest of his corpus. I am especially excited about its metafictional elements–any novel with a character named after the author is alright with me.

Bought on amazon.com.

Walker, Alice. Meridian. 1976. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003.

I received a desk copy of this book in the mail today. It’s one of the novels that I’m assigning in my African American Literature After 1960 course this May. I wrote a dissertation chapter on it, but have never taught it before. It’s an excellent fictionalization of the tension between the Civil Rights and Black Power strands of the 1960s black liberation movement.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Book Acquired Recently: Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues

Feinberg, Leslie. Stone Butch Blues. 1993. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2003.

I’ve been meaning to read this queer classic for a while, and recently was on amazon.com buying something else, and decided to finally buy Feinberg’s novel to help me get to the $25.00 free shipping threshold. To my horror I discovered that the book is currently out of print! I was able to buy a used copy for $20.00, which seems high, but since it is both out of print and important it may become rare quite quickly, so I felt it was worth it.

The reason this important book is out of print is that its publisher, Alyson Books, went out of business a few years ago. This is yet another example of the publishing industry’s troubles–it is more and more difficult for independent publishers to stay alive. Alyson was an important publisher of LGBT works that are now in limbo. One hopes that some other publisher will recognize their value and buy the rights. In the case of Stone Butch Blues, it still gets written about, and remained on syllabi while it was in print, so it would be a good investment for another company to make.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Ode to Mennonot

Mennonot, a zine “For Mennos [i.e., Mennonites] on the Margins,” published thirteen issues between 1993 and 2003 (though issue 12 appeared in 1999 and issue 13 did not appear until four years later). Happily, the full set has just been put online for free here. Mennonot included commentary on the state of institutional Mennonitism, interviews, reader rants, humor, and poetry by important Mennonite writers such as Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Jeff Gundy, and Patrick Friesen. It provided an important safe space for people who were raised Mennonite, but had questions about the tradition to air their “heretical” thoughts and encounter ideas from others going through a similar struggle. Retrospectively, I think that its most important contribution was its early (by Mennonite standards), unwavering advocacy for LGBT rights both in the Church and in broader society. There are numerous articles and letters from LGBT persons throughout Mennonot‘s run, beginning with the first issue.

I first encountered Mennonot towards the end of college, reading the last three issues, but I haven’t thought about it much since then. It feels good to get reacquainted! I’ve been reading through it for the past week or so, which has been enjoyable. It is fascinating to see what issues were important to “Mennonots” (a label which currently describes me) twenty years ago. Sadly, the institutional Mennonite Church is still nearly as oppressive of women and LGBT persons now as it was then.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature