What We’re Loving: Baseball, Giacometti, Literary Sprinting


This Week’s Reading

Missing baseball yet? I am: I miss the slow churn of the season, I miss sitting in the stands, shielding my eyes from an afternoon sun as a hit flies into the air—is it foul? is it fair?—only to be caught at the wall by an outfielder. I miss the rhythm of apparent inactivity mixed with maximum tension. (I don’t miss the Cubs never winning a World Series.) What is beautiful about Steven Millhauser’s single-sentence story “Home Run” in Electric Literature is that not only does it celebrate our national pastime, it celebrates this rhythm through language. As editor Halimah Marcus explains in her introduction, “With nary a punctuation mark other than a comma, Millhauser builds momentum like the titular home run—the linguistic equivalent of bated breath, of rally towels, of screaming from your seat, of going, going, gone.” —Justin Alvarez

In celebration of Neil Gaiman’s recent appointment at Bard College (my alma mater), I’ve been spending my evenings with American Gods. Not generally a reader of fantasy, at first I found myself echoing a question asked early on by our protagonist, Shadow: “What should I believe?” When we received an answer—“Everything”—it came from a man with a buffalo head. The book is a compendium of mythological tales, mixed together with intelligent precision and strewn with horror and humor. Ancient deities war with the rising gods of a digital world; a junkie leprechaun roams the streets in search of a misplaced gold coin; morticians by the names of Ibis and Jacquel chew on small bits of organs as they reseal their cadavers. Oh, and Lucille Ball is a god of the new millennium. Yet at the core of these phantasmagorical episodes is a commentary on melting-pot America, where the titans of other worlds are forgotten and replaced by newer, trendier gods—“gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” It’s no wonder that this novel has won both Hugo and Nebula awards or that the Internet has been in a frenzy over the rumored HBO adaptation. —Caitlin Youngquist

In the world of century artist Alberto Giacometti, perfect naïveté amounted to sophistication, plaudits amounted to nothing, and life came down to rendering a nose in relief on a flat canvas. In A Giacometti Portrait, James Lord chronicles his time posing for the artist. He chronicles the artist’s struggles—“maybe the canvas will become completely empty … I’ll die of it!”—but it is far more than a list of artistic idiosyncrasies: rather, it is a moving profile of vision and realization. —Taylor Anne Lane

On Monday night, I attended a screening of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth at the BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn. Noted Kings County resident Martin Amis was on hand to introduce the film. If that sounds like an arbitrary choice, one should know that Amis met Polanski in 1979—eight years after Macbeth was made—for the director’s first official interview since fleeing the United States. Amis unwisely brought his girlfriend along to the meeting, and later found out that whenever he went to the restroom, Polanski told her to get rid of him. As for the film itself, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy was produced by Playboy, which feels eerily apropos in the scene where Macbeth visits the Weird Sisters and finds a harem of naked witches, as if the director had mined Hugh Hefner’s nightmares for inspiration. Unlike the weary bosoms of those midnight hags, Polanski’s movie has held up rather well over the years, especially the final fight between Macbeth and Macduff. When the two of them go at it like demented drunks in armor the effect is—I think intentionally—comical. Of course we know what the outcome will be, as does the usurper king, but the decision to make his final struggle an absurd, bumbling affair is a stroke of brilliance. —Fritz Huber

Nicholson Baker probably wouldn’t beat out Beckett (who famously once told an actress “you can’t go fast enough”) for the title of top literary sprinter. But Baker’s short, breathtaking Room Temperature is as athletic and verbally spirited as anything I’ve ever read, and deserves at least a hankie thrown on the track. Halfway through this feat of lyrical endurance, Baker’s narrator riffs on “the implied high culture” of a felt-tip comma he hears his wife writing, obsessing like a reverential fanboy over whether “the graceful purling motion necessary to the creation of the coma, that inclusive flip of the pen, is similar to the motions we use in writing the prose that surrounds it, while the period is an alien jab”. That regard for gentleness is what seems to be behind Baker’s own peripatetic, generous style: “maybe as a general rule, the fewer commas a person used, the more ruthless a tyrant he would prove to be if placed in a position of power.” —Lucie Elven