Friday, July 20, 2012

The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This rating is really somewhere between two and three. I enjoyed it, there wasn't anything bad about it, but I also didn't think there was anything here that warrants the incredible reception it received.

There was a children's author named John R. Tunis, a former sportswriter who started writing novels about sports. "The Iron Duke" was the first of his books I read, one of the only novels I ever remember my father recommending or even expressing an opinion about. It was about track, and it helped that I was a runner. I went on from there to read many of his other novels, most of which were about baseball. They really were about baseball, and what you cared about was whether the team won, whether the protagonist did will or overcame whatever difficulty he was facing.

"The Art of Fielding" is like that, but for adults. That means there is swearing, drinking, sex, homosexuality, and a smattering of adult situations, but it's almost all plot: will Henry Skrimshander break the record for errorless games and land a major league contract? Will the team have a winning season and make it to the Nationals? Will the guy get the girl (or guy)?

What does the author do well? He writes pretty well about baseball. He avoids the cliche "tools of ignorance" even though one of the main characters is a catcher. He moves the story along and keeps the reader involved. He does dialogue pretty well.

On the other hand, he sometimes strains credulity. For instance, I have a hard time that even at a small college with a mediocre team the baseball coach would let one of his players spend all his time on the bench reading. Or for another, do we really believe the instant conversion of the heterosexual college dean merely at the sight of one beautiful baseball player? Or the obvious erudition, including fluency in Greek, of more than one of the jocks on the team? Or, to take a smaller example, that the name of Henry's hero, also a shortstop, is Aparicio Rodriguez? We know who Luis Aparicio is, but Aparicio is not a first name. And don't get me started (it would be a spoiler) on the final scene involving Dean Affenlight!

So overall I'm a bit puzzled. I like watching baseball. In fact, I'm watching the game right now, but I don't kid myself that I'm engaged in a serious intellectual pursuit while I'm watching. The book is like that: it's fine, and it's entertaining, but I really don't think it's anything more than that. And for the critics who decided this was the literary novel of the year, I really don't see it.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Five Democrats to Vote Against

Well, three actually.

As you know, we're all about electing more and better Democrats. Today's post focuses on the "better Democrats" side of the formula.

This week the Republicans in the House of Representatives, rather than try to do something productive for the country, voted for the thirty-second time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And when I say "the Republicans" I mean it, because every single Republican in the House voted for the repeal.

What you might not know is that there were also five so-called Democrats who voted with them. If you're reading this the odds are that you're not eligible to vote for or against these guys, but if you are, please take my advice and vote against them.

The Filthy Five are: Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim Matheson (Utah).

Boren and Ross are not running for reelection, McIntyre, Kissell, and Matheson are.

The reasons they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act are pretty obvious: they're all in conservative districts dominated by Republicans, the voters in their districts voted against Obama in 2008, and they have little chance to get elected taking Democratic positions. So does that mean we should have a heart, recognize that they're doing the best they can, and just be glad there are D's holding those seats?

I don't think so. All of these guys voted against the Affordable Care Act when it was passed. Some of them have refused to endorse President Obama's reelection, are anti-choice, and have voted for things like a balanced budget amendment.

In other words, they're indistinguishable from Republicans of the most vicious stripe.

If you live in these guys' districts, do not vote Democratic.