Saturday, November 5, 2016

Novels, Baseball, and Elton John #socs

So the prompt this week is “novel,” and NaNoWriMo just started, in which I am not participating. I did for several years and ended up each time with fifty thousand words of utter crap that wasn’t even worth rewriting. Well, it was, as long as by “rewriting” you mean “throwing it away and writing something totally different.”

When I started this blog, I thought I wanted to write a novel and had all kinds of ideas that I would write a thousand words a day on a novel. I’d even participate in A Round Of Words In 80 Days and make that as one of my goals. Then, I wouldn’t write a word. I finally sat myself down and said, “why am I not writing?” And I figured it out: I don’t even like to read novels; how’m I supposed to write one? So I tried short stories, and discovered I didn’t want to write them either. Likewise with TV and movie scripts. I found that I really don’t like fiction that much, and that disqualifies me as a writer of it.

That’s when I changed my focus here and started writing about the things I like: music, vintage TV, memories of life when I was growing up, and of course smart-assery. Sometimes I throw in a little fiction, usually unintentionally because I fudge some of the details because I forget, or intentionally because it makes for a better story. That usually takes the form of combining related stories, rearranging events, adding unrelated snippets because I don’t have a place for them, etc. So you might say there’s some fiction involved there. But I don’t consider myself a fiction writer.

I did participate in and actually moderated a collaborative fiction mailing list, and created a number of characters for it. But that was years ago, and I’ve given up on it, although the characters do pop up and tell me to write their stories from time to time. And I do, for my own amusement. I even created a new character not long ago and started telling his story, but he quit talking to me. Fine, be that way about it, Blake.

We usully think of “novel” as a book, but “novel” is an adjective that means “original and of a kind not seen before,” kind of like the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. To listen to Cubs fans, you’d think it was the most significant thing to happen since the beginning of recorded history, maybe even before then. They’re wrong, of course; that happened eleven years ago when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. For years, Cub fans have been saying the reason they never won was because Sam “Billy Goat” Sianis, a Chicago restaurateur who ran The Billy Goat Tavern on Lower Wacker Drive, was kept from taking his billy goat into Wrigley Field and put a curse on them. (The Billy Goat, by the way, was the model for the “cheeseburger, cheeseburger” place John Belushi ran on Saturday Night Live.)

Sianis lifted the “curse” in 1969, when the Cubs were in the hunt for the NL East crown, won eventually by the New York Mets when the Cubs folded in rather dramatic fashion, but the legend of the “billy goat curse” lived on until 2003, when a young guy named Steve Bartman went after a foul ball that was hit into the stands, keeping Moises Alou from catching it and keeping the at-bat alive for the Florida Marlins, who went on to win that game and the next.

Nothing would have been thought of it if Alou hadn’t pitched a fit like he did. Bartman was hardly the only person reaching for the ball, and maybe not the only person to touch it. Alou had no play; the ball was in the stands and, as the announcer said, fair game for the fans. Had it been in play, the umpire would have called fan interference, the batter would be out, and the Cubs would be on their way to the World Series. As it was, Bartman was escorted out of the park, probably for his own protection, and the “Bartman curse” replaced the “billy goat curse.” The real curse all this time, I’ve decided, was owners (the Wrigley family and The Chicago Tribune) who were more interested in gate receipts than postseason glory, and kept the team good enough to compete (thus keeping the seats filled) but not quite good enough to win.

None of which takes anything away from the team, whose new owner hired one of the best GM’s in baseball, who brought in players who could go all the way and a manager who could get them there. They had a great season and got it done. Congratulations to them.

“Novel” spelled backwards is “Levon,” a song by Elton John that was on his Madman Across The Water album and one of his better songs.


Linda Hill (who probably wants to kill me now for going well beyond the five minutes) sponsors Stream of Consciousness Saturday each week. She has all the rules and pingbacks at her site.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

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