Telephone: 604 444-4889
Outside Vancouver: 1 888 445-4176
Fax: 604 444-4119
Reviewed by Anne L. Kaufman
There is more good writing about baseball than about any other sport, and George Bowering‘s memoir Baseball Love is a worthy shelf-mate to any diamond classic you could name.
It has the air, throughout, of a book that had to be, a book that might even have willed itself into being. As often noted, Bowering has written some eighty books in a variety of genres, with baseball woven through his life narrative like a recurring melody. In “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” John Updike describes the final relationship of Ted Williams and the Boston fans as a “mellowing hoard of shared memories,” and it is this palpable weight of baseball memory shared with teammates, children, former and current partners, and with his readers, that adds resonance to this funny, leisurely, and evocative storytelling enterprise.
The baseball that takes centre stage in Baseball Love is not the bloated corporate giant of twenty-first-century Major League Baseball, but rather the essential nature of the sport, with all of its attendant sounds, smells, and trips to the emergency room. Bowering’s version of the game is not “pink hat” baseball; it is the baseball of baseball fans, those seekers who travel across provinces and states from one ballpark (preferably minor league) to another, dreamers who compare the sausages in the Kansas City Royals’ stadium to the offerings on Yawkey Way in Boston and bemoan the invention of industrial-carpet varieties of artificial grass.
Over the course of the book, the reader travels with Bowering and his partner Jean Baird to ballparks across the continent, from his early days as a sports reporter to contemporary contemplations of a life as a Red Sox fan, necessarily rethinking the meaning of that identity after the 2004 miracle.
The reader who will love this book most will have a plethora of her or his own baseball love and memories to pair with each of Bowering’s stories, as if sitting at a bar trading story for story; your inspired bobble head giveaway for Bowering’s Substance-Free Night on the plains, your neighbour on the next barstool and her memory of witnessing a triple play for Bowering’s parade of brave but hapless relievers marching to the mound and their doom. Bowering employs a sense of participation very effectively here, both in direct address to the reader and in the way his language evokes powerful sense-memories of similar experiences.
My copy of this book arrived shrink-wrapped, which puzzled me. When I removed the wrap, the reason for the shrink wrap revealed itself, to my absolute delight. No, I won’t tell. This is a book you’ll have to buy.
This review first appeared in Canadian Literature in 2009.