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Letter, novelette, MFA-machined fiction, Whistler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, op-eds, baseball book

Friday 11/24/23

Started work here on the day after Thanksgiving at 3 in the morning by writing a letter to The Wall Street Journal which I'll send later to get what I need to end the two-year nightmare I've endured first with the IRS and now with the Department of Revenue because of The Wall Street Journal's error. Do you know how much time and energy this has cost and the stress it has added to my life? A lot all around. I need one piece of paper now to finally end all of this.

Worked more on "Finder of Views." The pain and the beauty that this story holds. I don't think anything contains more of either. It's the beauty that allows this pain to be gotten through at the level of the story, by which I mean in the reading of it. I wouldn't say the beauty numbs a reader to the pain, but there is this kind of spell, almost, and one wishes to go on and on. It's such an honest work. I never see any fiction, all of this MFA-machined hackery, where I think it's honest. I think, "That's just you. That's nothing you've invented. It's just your meaningless, boring, privileged, sheltered life, and you've changed some names." I don't mean by honest that something happened to you. Honest is about the life factor.

Two op-eds appeared yesterday in two of the highest circulation newspapers in the United States.

Listened to the first two episodes of the radio program The Whistler, from 1942. It's a solid show, but they do that Suspense-style twist ending--sometimes there's a double twist. F. Scott Fitzgerald was opposed to exclamation points--and if you are going to use one, you really need to know what you're doing--and I am generally opposed to twist endings. They're gimmicky. But before the endings, you get a well-acted radio play with The Whistler and some second person-narration, which was unusual for radio.

Worked more on the baseball book, which is now over forty pages and more than ready to show as a partial. Just something from it from yesterday below. How is another writer going to compete with this? How are you going to compete with the writing? The ideas? The expertise? Logistically how would someone begin to do any of that? Can't do it. Impossible.

He hit thirty plus home runs in each of his last three seasons with the Oakland Athletics in the mid-1980s, which meant that he had a real shot at reaching 500, a number that used to guarantee Hall canonization before people started guessing who did steroids and who didn’t, which also makes for a strange form of baseball Passover and I bet there are some tainted surprises in Cooperstown.

Was Kingman then blackballed? Is that why my lowered eyes see 442 homers as Kingman’s career total rather than the 519 he could have gotten? Did the league collude against him? There’s a story that circulates about him sending a dead rat to a female reporter, which obviously would have been very wrong and not helped with a possible march to 500 round-trippers. I don’t have the sense that Kingman was a terrible person. He looks kind in the photos I’ve seen where he’s autographing an item for someone. There’s a shot, too, of him as a Met where it had snowed so Kingman built a little snowman which makes me think that the latter is like the Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus and Kingman would then be the Dinger Miser.

But who knows? What I do know is that baseball was always wary of Kingman. He made people uncomfortable. What he stood for, that is, in his approach. Granted, he hit .210 in his last campaign of 1986, with an OBP of .255, which, I admit, makes me laugh; I mean, that’s like a Dadaist OBP figure. Are we talking Dave Kingman here or Marcel Duchamp with a bat and some pine tar?

All the same: thirty bombs from someone in the middle of the line-up is thirty bombs, and those bombs don’t exactly grow on light towers, though they do sound cool when they clang off of them.

You know how when you learn something as a child, you take it with you into the rest of your life as this form of gospel writ large? It’s uncanny what can stay with us and remain unchallenged, based upon when we first receive that wisdom, if wisdom it truly be. Often it’s not.

Now, when I scan over Dave Kingman’s stats—which I do a lot—I see a player who clearly wasn’t what I was led to believe he was. It’s as if the legend of Dave Kingman preceded the reality of the player, and it was that legend that got in one’s head, the way that the legend of Sleepy Hollow did in Ichabod Crane before he took his post-party ride and was prey to the mischief of Brom Bones.

How on earth could you write the most learned philosophical treatise that is also on Dave Kingman of all people--Dave Kingman! (What's up, Fitzgerald?)--and hardcore baseball stats, that is accessible to all, and funny and life-impacting in serious ways? What is that? Who else is going to do that? Who could do any of it, let alone all of it?

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