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Date archive for: May 2014

The Sting of the Strikeout

I don’t love baseball. And I feel bad about that. Some of the finest people I know — people who are undeniably more advanced human beings than I am — are wild for the game. They love that it’s not timed, but rather over when it’s over; that it lets players of every shape and size be superstars; and that the object is more complicated than just putting a ball into a net, over a line, or through a hoop.

The closest I ever come to loving baseball was a brief tenderness I had for its distinctive snacks. It was 1981, and Fernando Valenzuela was pitching for Los Angeles, Steve Garvey was playing first base, and I was mowing Dodger Dogs, Cracker Jacks, and ice cream on the blistering Loge level.

Back then, I was a kid watching grown-ups play baseball. Recently I’ve revisited the sport as a grown-up watching kids play it, in Little League. But the new perspective hasn’t deepened my appreciation for our national pastime. In fact, it’s made me dread it.

Each time a kid gets up to bat and strikes out — my son or someone else’s, on our team or the opposing one, doesn’t matter — it positively guts me. Hollows out my stomach like an inverted baseball cap or a stadium peanut being popped from its salty shell.

Swing, miss! … Adjust stance. … Swing, miss! … Adjust grip. … Swing, miss! … Adjust self-image.

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Where Does the Story End?

Every book club is good at something. Whipping up themed dinners, for example. Or planning out meeting schedules a year in advance. Or spotting motifs and allegories throughout a novel.

My book club is advanced at arguing.

In our decade of existence, we’ve quarreled over the time, day, format, and frequency of meetings. We’ve squabbled about hardcover versus paperback and Kindle versus iPad. We’ve gone toe-to-toe over who would play the main character in the movie version and whether it was fair to choose a book in which a child dies. Yes, that happened.

We once had a particularly squawky and even tearful meeting that is still affectionately referred to as Book Club Fight Club.

We’re an opinionated bunch, and I love that about us. Who wants a book group that’s too timid to tell you what they really felt about a bildungsroman — or worse, who felt nothing at all?

What we argue about most is endings. The 12 of us can work ourselves into a good, literary lather over a tome’s final pages: an off-kilter epilogue, a dissatisfying denouement, an outrageous resolution that leaves us locking horns over whether the author is a genuine Joyce-ian genius, or in fact lacks the depth god gave a bookmark.

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