Dec. 1, 2009

Scrub Dreams of Taking the Last Shot

by Jack Ridl

Thirty-one seconds on the clock, Coach is down on one knee, screaming
at Tommy to get the ball across mid-court and call time-out. We're down
by one. Time-out. In the huddle, Coach slaps Frank behind the head.
"Look at this. Look. Now, you, Frank, you get the ball to Jimmy. Frank,
You hear me? OK. Now, get the ball to Jimmy. Then, Frank, you break
down the lane like you're gonna get it back. Got it? OK. Then, Jimmy,
you look for Scrub who'll be breaking out to the line after Frank goes by.
Frank, you're gonna screen Scrub's man. OK? Now, it's just the same as
in practice. No different. No different. Just the same. Just the…" And
all Scrub can hear is this roar, this sense that the roof is opening and a
train is tumbling slowly across the sky. He looks over at Jennie. She's
shoving her fist toward the scoreboard and yelling, "Come on Blue!
Come on Blue!" The horn sounds. They all reach in, grab Coach's hand.
"OK. OK. OK. OK. OK. OK." Frank tosses it in to Jimmy, 28, 27, 26.
25. Jimmy dribbles left, back right; his man presses close; Jimmy keeps
the ball tight to his right side, keeps his left arm out. He holds his head
high, at an angle. 18, 17, 16, 15. He passes to Tommy. Tommy looks
inside, fakes a pass, head fakes, tosses back to Jimmy. The train is
rolling, the crowd, the clock, Jennie is shrieking, "C'mon, c'mon,
c'mon!" 12, 11, 10. Jimmy's still dribbling. Coach is back down on his
knee, clapping. "OK. OK. OK." Frank cuts down the lane. Scrub fakes
left, then starts for the line, Jimmy looks to his right, catches Scrub open;
Scrub turns, fires . . . The last dance, "Good-night, sweetheart, well, it's
time to go. Good-night sweetheart, good-night." And Jeannie cups her
hand around Scrub's neck

"Scrub Dreams of Taking the Last Shot" by Jack Ridl, from Losing Season. © Cavan Kerry Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen, born on this day in Brooklyn in 1935. His films include Bananas (1971), Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan(1979), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and most recently, Whatever Works (2009).

He said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

It's the birthday of the writer who said: "If you know how to read, the World of Books is open to you, after all; and if you like to read, you'll read. If you don't you'll forget whatever anybody makes you read, anyway." That's John Crowley, (books by this author) born on this day in Presque Isle, Maine, in 1942. He started making his living as a writer from a young age — he wrote a sales show for Maidenform Bras, and he wrote copy for a wine distribution company without tasting any of the wines. He said, "When you do this sort of work, you pretend to be the sort of person that you could imagine writing this kind of stuff; then you write what he would write."

He also started writing for historical documentaries, something that he still does, documentaries about the 1939 World's Fair or the Great Depression or building bomb shelters in the 1950s. He said: "The possibilities are very poetic when making archival documentaries because this old stuff was never meant to go together. In effect you create your own kinds of metaphors by putting moments together that had no connection with one another and making a connection out of them."

But he is best known as a fiction writer. His books are sometimes called fantasy or science fiction and sometimes just fiction. John Crowley said, "It's probably central to the nature of fiction altogether, to try to enter into lost worlds, or enter into 'the lost' in some way." And he has created many strange and lost worlds in his fiction, worlds that are on the one hand recognizable to us, and on the other slightly altered, filled with magic. He lived in a tiny apartment in Manhattan for many years, and then he moved to the country, to western Massachusetts, and he spent almost 10 years writing a novel about a man named Smoky Barnable from "The City" (Manhattan) who moves to the country to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, and slowly becomes part of a family that lives on the border between the world he knows and a world of fairies. It's an epic novel, following several generations of the Drinkwater family, moving between the grimy world of bars and corporate offices in Manhattan to a big, mysterious house in the country. The novel is Little, Big (1981).

When the critic Harold Bloom was asked to write about one book that changed his life, he mentioned writing by Shakespeare, William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, but the book he finally chose was Little, Big. He said: "So perpetually fresh is this book, changing each time I reread it, that I find it virtually impossible to describe, and scarcely can summarize it. I pick it up again at odd moments, sometimes when I wake up at night and can't fall back asleep. Though it is a good-sized volume, I think I remember every page. Little, Big is for readers from nine to ninety, because it naturalizes and renders domestic the marvelous."

Little, Big has gone through several editions. It started as a cult book, and now it has a much wider readership, but it still has the devoted following of a cult novel. Most recently, John Crowley collaborated with an illustrator and a small press to produce a limited-edition, artistic reprint of the novel in honor of its 25th anniversary. The new version is scheduled to come out in February, and there are actually three versions of it, ranging from $95 to $900, and both the $300 version and the $900 version are already completely sold out.

John Crowley is the author of many books, including The Translator (2002); the four-volume Ægypt saga, books about magic and the occult, including Ægypt (1987), Love and Sleep (1994), Dæmonomania (2000), and Endless Things (2007); and his most recent novel, Four Freedoms (2009), the story of life in an Oklahoma town during World War II, a town that has emerged to build bombers for the war effort.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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