Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Ah, it is a sad time.

Stubby Clapp, my favorite baseball player (based solely on the wonderfulness of his name), was released this week by the Atlanta Braves.

Stubby made it to The Bigs for part of the 2001 season with St. Louis, but wound up spending 2003 with Atlanta's AAA farm team in Richmond. He managed to bat a resounding .217.

There is some hope that we'll see the name Stubby Clapp in future sports news, because he is a native of Canada and probably will play on the Canadian Olympic team in Athens next summer.

Until then, I'll just have to hope that my other favorite ballplayer, Boof Bonser, recovers from arm trouble so he can climb out of the minor leagues onto the San Francisco Giants pitching staff.

In the best of all possible worlds, Stubby Clapp would shine so brightly at the Olympics that he jumps back to the major leagues and winds up batting against Boof Bonser. What a confrontation!

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I posted a semi-lighthearted screed on Writeright the other day about writing being an addiction, and that got me to thinking about writers and addictive personalities. Many of the former seem to have the latter.

Look at American winners of the Nobel Prize in literature. Sinclair Lewis was a mean drunk. So was Eugene O’Neill. William Faulkner was the epitome of the Southern gentleman lush, right down to the white mustache and the sour mash whiskey. Ernest Hemingway drank every afternoon, to mellow out from his morning of writing, and when he reached the point where his health wouldn’t let him write or drink, he shot himself. John Steinbeck, too, was no slouch with a bottle.

F. Scott Fitzgerald made a lifestyle out of guzzling, washing away his talent and his famous marriage to flapper Zelda in a river of booze. By the time he dried out, Zelda was in a mental hospital, he was reduced to Hollywood screenwriting and his health was shot. He died at 44.

In recent months, I’ve read biographies of and/or memoirs by several writers identified as alcoholics -- John O’Hara, William Kittredge and Truman Capote, to name three.

I also read a biography of Richard Yates, who might be the champ of addictiveness. Not only was he a drunk, but he smoked four packs of cigarettes a day from the time he was a teen-ager. When he reached his sixties, his lungs were so wasted he had to carry around a tank of oxygen to suck on -- and still he didn’t quit smoking! He’d nudge the oxygen hose aside to light up a cigarette!

Then there are the stoners. Oregonian Ken Kesey wrote two brilliant novels, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes A Great Notion,” in the early 1960s before plunging into the LSD binge Tom Wolfe documented in “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and going to prison on a marijuana charge. After he got out of jail, Kesey retreated to his family’s farm east of Eugene and produced nothing but literary mediocrity and gibberish in his last thirty-five years. He must have burnt out too many brain cells with his early life in the drug-fueled fast lane.

Norman Mailer, I suspect, might agree with that assessment. He has said in print that his experiments with marijuana in the 1950s left holes in his memory big enough to drive a truck through. He confesses there are times in conversation when he draws an Alzheimer’s-like blank trying to come up with a word he wants. Hand me that tree, Norm. The tree on the desk there.

I could go on and on. Jack Kerouac drank himself to death at 47. Charles Bukowski built a literary reputation out of such monumental drunkenness that the movie about him is called “Barfly.” Raymond Carver was a drunk. So were Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, James Thurber, John Cheever, Dylan Thomas and William Inge. John Gardner and Richard Farina had motorcycle fetishes that killed them. Robert Stone became a major stoner, appropriately enough, at Kesey’s side. John Berryman was addicted to cigarettes and booze up until his suicide. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a walking advertisement for chain-smoking.

See? Writers tend to have addictive personalities. No wonder we need Writers Anonymous. Or were we going to call our support group Writewatchers?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Seven, I'm in Seven,
My heart beats so that I can hardly speak,
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
Answering the Sunday Seven cheek to cheek.

1) What are you wearing?

Gray University of Oregon sweatshirt (I can can be seen in it without embarrassment, for a change, because the Ducks actually won a football game yesterday); gray Lowe Tech t-shirt (Get Fuzzy!); blue Levi’s jeans; my official Bought at a Hardware Store in Hermiston, Oregon, leather cowboy belt; dirty white socks (I grabbed them off the bedroom floor in the dark this morning ), sweatboot slippers.

2) What are you reading?

“Letting Loose the Hounds,” a book of short stories by Brady Udall.

3) What’s for dinner?

Bean-and-pumpkin soup. “Like the pioneers used to eat,” my wife said. I’ve got to keep her away from that “Little House on the Prairie Cookbook.”

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

I had a poem accepted for publication by Slant, a literary magazine in Arkansas. La di da. La di da.

5) What’s bugging you?

Property taxes are due in a few days. I’m trying to work up the nerve to write “bloodsuckers” in the memo line of my check, as I sometimes do when paying utility bills.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Meddybemps, Maine

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Today being the birthday of Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, I quote him: "What's terrible is that there's nothing terrible, that the very essence of life is petty, uninteresting, and degradingly trite."

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