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.
There’s a new short film on grantland.com by Jonathan Hock about Alfred Slote’s children’s novel Jake, with a great introduction by Bill Simmons here. Like Simmons, I read Jake and one of Slote’s other novels, Hang Tough, Paul Mather, over and over as a boy. They were perfect because they used baseball, something which I and many other American boys were passionate about, as a channel through which to teach us about the difficulties of life. I picked up the books because they were baseball books, but, in hindsight, I kept going back to them because they taught me about compassion. Apparently they are now out of print, which is a tragedy. They are timeless.
With the latest news (it keeps changing! by the time I finish writing this post everything I say might be completely outdated) that the New York Knicks are going to let Jeremy Lin join the Houston Rockets, some people, most notably Bill Simmons, have asked whether it is justifiable for Knicks fans to switch their allegiance to the Nets since they are moving to Brooklyn. Simmons argues that it is justifiable because James Dolan is such an incompetent owner. In response, there is a discussion on grantland.com about the issue:
As a Knicks fan, I must say that it is RIDICULOUS to even consider becoming a Nets fan at this juncture. Sal Iacono writes in his part of the article that if you live in Brooklyn (i.e., if the Nets are now your “local” team rather than the Knicks), it is justified to switch to the Nets, and I agree, but this is the only circumstance in which it would be justifiable to switch. Being a fan of a team is about loyalty and history–the team’s, your own, and how they intersect–it’s not about throwing a temper tantrum about a decision you don’t agree with. Lin is an exciting player, but he hasn’t even performed at a consistent level for a year. He is far from a known quantity; it’s not the end of the world that he’ll be with another team.
Katie Baker puts it best in the piece (though her pessimism is a bit hyperbolic), and her words should be heeded by all Knicks fans: “Maybe I’m stubborn, or stupid, or both. But I’m sticking around. I’m going down with the ship, playing “Go New York, Go New York, Go” on a waterlogged and out-of-tune violin. I may be a bitter old biddy by the time the Knicks finally win a post-‘70s title; more likely, I’ll be dead. But I just truly don’t think I could ever imagine it any other way.”
Here’s a fantastic blog post from Grantland.com (one of the best sports websites out there) about a rather ridiculous Boston Globe article about “lax bros,” who are apparently just jocks who play lacrosse, i.e., lacrosse players (and people wonder why newspapers are dying!).
I giggled the entire time I was reading it. It’s surreal even if you know what they’re talking about; I think it must be even funnier to readers who know nothing about lacrosse (so everyone should read it).
Also, I must say that I totally have a crush on Katie Baker. She’s my favorite writer on the site aside from Bill Simmons (and it’s a closer contest than I’d like to admit. Sorry for my near-disloyalty, Sports Guy!). That ranking speaks both to how excellent of a writer Baker is and how much Chuck Klosterman has stunk up the joint of late, mostly by refusing to publish more than one column a month (that’s how it feels, anyway). I’m sad that hockey season is coming to an end because it means that Baker’s “Coldhearted” column will come to an end, too.