Thursday, May 20, 2010
On New Discoveries
I've been dealing with some health issues (more annoying than serious), so my apologies for the sporadic posting around here. But if there is one advantage to being sick as a freelance employee, it's that it frees me to spend my days reading novels and watching films. Here's what I've discovered:
1. Charles Willeford. Willeford is most famous for writing a book called Miami Blues, which was made into a forgettable film starring a young and suave Alec Baldwin. This is a travesty, because Willeford is kind of a genius, if only for The Shark-Infested Custard, which (apropos of its inexplicable title) is one of the darkest and weirdest novels I've read in quite some time. Go, right now, and read the first two chapters; you'll either find it brilliant or perverse (or both). As I get older, I become more and more convinced that mystery novels and sportswriting have a great deal in common: There is a tremendous amount of chaff, but the best in each genre is as good as any writing being done, anywhere. Well, Willeford was essentially Elmore Leonard before Elmore Leonard existed. He died more than two decades ago, but anyone who can write lines like this: "Hank came into the living room, looking and smelling like a jai-alai player on his night off"...deserves a lasting legacy.
2. Between the Lines. I have no idea how a relatively plotless movie about an alternative newspaper in Boston ever got made--not to mention a movie about an alternative newspaper in Boston starring half a dozen recognizable and likeable actors in the infancy of their careers--but it sure is intriguing to watch, if only for a 12-year-old Jeff Goldblum.
3. A False Spring. Maybe you know Pat Jordan from his Deadspin antics, or his Times Magazine profiles, or maybe you don't know him at all. Either way, this book is a revelation; it's a book about Jordan's failed career as a minor-league pitcher, but it has as much to do with baseball as Friday Night Lights has to do with football. Jordan does not hold back; rarely does the narrator of a memoir portray himself as essentially an immature jerk, but still manage to craft an endearing narrative. I'm still not sure how he did it, but it's worth seeking out, even if, like me, you long ago stopped really caring about baseball.