So I’ve had lunch, and in a little while I need to make a grocery run and perhaps get a walk in. But meanwhile…
Things didn’t go as I would have hoped at the old ball yard on Friday, as the Wolves dropped both ends of their doubleheader, eliminating them from the National Championship tournament. Still, even a less-than-great day at the ballpark is better than a whole lot of other things, and I showed the flag for the kids — including an English major whose pitching this season won him accolades as Freshman of the Year from the conference.
I also got to meet the player’s mom and dad, who were sitting behind me in the stands behind home plate. That’s a nice thing about the pace of baseball — you can meet your neighbors while the game goes on. I mentioned I had loaned a book to their son.
“Did you get it back?” his mom asked.
“Not yet,” I said, “But it’s OK — I have a hostage.” He has my copy of Ball Four, but I have his copy of Roger Kahn’s The Head Game, so each of us has collateral. Anyway, their son is a terrific student, and as is typicallly the case, the parents seemed terrific as well. Nice to meet y’all.
In between the two games, a local youth baseball team showed up — I’d put the ages in the 8-10 age. As one would expect, they split their time between watching the game and engaging in horseplay, with the needle increasingly moving in the horseplay direction as the night went on. And that was fine; Mondoville’s park has D-I-Y seating areas on embankments between the bleachers and the field, so there was room for the kids to wander and goof around.
But what caught my attention was their team jersey. In fact, I got one of the team moms to shoot a picture of me with some of the players.
I mean, come on — when the Universe hands you something like that, you have to take it.
Another highlight came when I got to spend Game 1 chatting with my colleague and the Spawn’s mentor, history prof Tracy Power. It’s always good to see him — he’s a funny guy, and I’d say that even were he not a regular reader here.
For example, he was talking about a signing he had done when his Civil War history book Lee’s Miserables debuted. A woman approached him with a copy of the book, and asked Tracy if he’d sign it for her husband. As he did, she said, “He’ll be so excited — he just saw the musical!” I told Tracy that whatever else one might say, he does look younger than Victor Hugo.
So by the time I got home and showered off my four gallons of SPF 100 (although my palms still smelled faintly of coconuts the next day), I had found a very nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. And I do think Charlie Brown was right — hot dogs taste better with a ball game in front of them.
Saturday, the Spawn and I went to Real City for a movie and dinner. The movie was Detective Pikachu — as you might guess, it was the Spawn’s choice. “This is your popular culture,” I told her. “I’m just a tourist.”
And that’s true, but taking that into account, it was a pleasant enough movie with enough of a plot to maintain my interest, and enough laughs and cuteness for the real target audience. Yes, some of the messages about the power of friendship and trust and such were heavy-handed, but then, I’m not eight. As Dr. Frank N. Furter noted, “I didn’t build him for you.”
All told, the movie did what it needed to do, and I’m always happy to catch a movie with my kid. And the burger afterwards was nice as well.
I also spent a bit of the weekend re-reading El Bee’s Keller novel, Hit Me, when something, well, hit me.
I don’t love Larry’s fiction just because he constructs good plots. I don’t love it just because he shows incredible range, from crimefic to psychological horror to memoir to something not far from science fiction. I don’t love it just because he handles dialogue as well as any writer I’ve read. I don’t even love it just because the last page of When the Sacred Ginmill Closes is gorgeous, resonant prose of the sort I shoot for and one day might hit.
(And no, I don’t love it just because he buys my work. Smart ass.)
No, another reason I love Larry’s work is that he can create a throwaway character named…
Wait for it…
Pierce Naylor. Go ahead. Say it a few times.
Like D.W. Robertson talking about the delight that scriptural exegesis brings to a reader of Chaucer, moments like Pierce Naylor bring me a smile and enrich the books for me that much more.
So last night was the conclusion of Game of Thrones. I wasn’t a fan of the series, but Mrs. M was, and so I happened to be sitting around last night as things wrapped up. Between hearing Mrs. M’s recaps over the years and my general immersion in our popular culture, I had a general sense of the overall story and I knew who everyone was, even though I’ve seen little of the series.
No, I’m not gonna do spoilers here — that’s not my thing. But what I will say is that as a third-generation reader of SF and fantasy and as a writer, what I saw left me a bit flat. I’m familiar enough with the genre’s conventions that I successfully called some key plot points, and from a writer’s perspective, I saw too many of the stitch marks.
Those aren’t really complaints. The writers had been working without the safety net of Martin’s books for a few years, and because epic fantasy is, well, epic, the scale of what they had to do was enormous. (There’s a reason epic writers invoked the Muses, and why writing a successful epic was seen as a writer’s ultimate test, folks.) But I saw some of the cards getting palmed, which made revealing the Seven of Clubs a little less entertaining for me.
At the same time, I find myself simultaneously amused and horrified by the reaction of some fans who are outraged by the way some characters developed in ways they didn’t like. How dare the writer(s) tell stories that went in direction B, when the audience (or some specific member thereof) wanted direction A?
Well, I get that — if direction B wasn’t set up or earned, but just gratuitously happened in a deus ex machina kind of way. That’s bad writing, sort of the inverse of Chekhov’s pistol. If you’re going to fire a pistol in Act III, you at least need to make sure that a pistol’s presence is conceivable earlier.
Getting peevish because a writer took a story in a direction other than your fantasy headcanon (a term that annoys me no end, by the way) is (to me) a violation of the contract between creator and audience. It’s acting like the audience has the power to tell the artist what to make. Now, the audience may choose not to buy the final product. But they don’t get to tell the artist what to produce like a little kid telling Daddy to make sure there’s this particular ending, dammit. (In the telling of bedtime stories, as Dr. Johnson said of writing epitaphs, one is not under oath — the obligations are different.)
Like the story. Don’t like the story. But doggone it, don’t flog the artist for imagining something that doesn’t match your prejudices about what we’re supposed to imagine.
Thus spake the king of liver-flavored toothpaste.
And of course for more pearls of wisdom like this, feel free to check out my appearance at Mystery in the Midlands next month. Registration details are forthcoming.
I do need to get those groceries, though, so I’d best wrap this one up. Michael Yonkers has been doing strange music (often on homemade gear) since the late 60s, but as St. Wiki tells us, “his work did not reach a wide audience until decades after he began recording, due in part to a debilitating spinal injury that kept him in constant, lifelong pain.” In recent years, the Minneapolis-based musician has achieved a fair amount of attention from some good sized indie labels. This is a track from his 1968 album Microminiature Love, and it’s called “Kill the Enemy.”
See you soon!