Probably all of my NotGraphs comrades, not to mention you, the erudite reader, have already read The Art of Fielding, a novel by Chad Harbach. The lovely website Poets & Pitchers hosted a reading group for the book when it came out last fall, to which NotGraphs heroes Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry contributed.
I, a slacker, began reading said just this past weekend. So far (175 pages in), I am most taken with “the book within the book,” a collection of Zen-like adages with the same title as the novel, written by fictitious Hall-of-Fame shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez (who is at least a little bit based on Ozzie Smith). The central mantra of the book within the book, at least for character Henry Skrimshander, seems to be:
26. The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects his stillness and his teammates respond.
Of course, similar texts exist in our world:
Given the relative success of The Art of Fielding (the novel), and the fact that books like those pictured above by Williams and Carew are still floating around, a slew of new “Art of _______” manuscripts are on publishers’ desks right now, waiting to be printed — to change the world forever.
Here are a few such books:
The Art of Deflection by Ruben Amaro, Jr.
The Phillies GM and former player provides sage advice on how remain lively and talkative when responding to repeatedly asked questions that you don’t feel like answering, or have no idea how to answer, or didn’t hear correctly.
1. Misuse and abuse the word “hopefully” as often as possible. The masses gravitate to its optimism, ignoring the contentless babble and poor grammar that surround it. Consider how I used this tactic when asked about Chase Utley’s injury for the ninety-millionth time: “Hopefully, when he gets to the point where he’s feeling significantly…” It doesn’t even matter what I said after that: the reporters were all nodding, tapping notes into their tablets. I could have said Chase was already dead. Hopefully, I didn’t say that. :)
The book is full of delightful emoticons that really enact Amaro’s MO. Readers feel that they’re in with the GM, and so, hopefully, they don’t notice that the rest of the points in this book is simply a variation on the first one: key words and phrases (like “real good”, “however”, “rapscallion”, “one in the hand…”, “free pizza”, etc.) that distract reporters and the general public alike. The publishers are working on a deal with Pizza Hut to provide actual free pizza to those who buy the book.
The Art of Stealing by Matt Kemp
While the title might make you think of Rickey Henderson, the book is not about stolen bases, but rather about how Kemp stole Albert Pujols’s breath this spring. The book begins:
New Anaheim residents can’t help but be seduced by the suburban quiet away from Los Angeles proper, through which they must inevitably pass to get home; the wide, residential streets and the palm trees that stretch skyward and bow over those streets; the cozy affluence, the lengthy garages, the porch swings; the warmth of dusk. Perhaps these new residents are reminded of their wholesome roots in the southern midwest; they almost always leave their doors open at night…
You can imagine the rest.
The Art of Rickey by Rickey Henderson
“You are a book, I see. You know, Rickey wrote a book once.”
“I know, Rickey. I am that book.”
The classic story about Rickey not remembering John Olerud, though now debunked, still defines, at least partially, the essence Rickey. This heart- and groundbreaking book reveals that Rickey was not guilty of extreme self-absorption, but rather suffers from a rare form of amnesia whereby all present experiences merely remind him of past experiences; he is unable to acknowledge the person, places, or things that those experiences have in common across time.
In the final chapters, which are especially surreal and moving, Rickey depicts his current quest to construct a time machine that would allow him to constantly travel back to a static moment in time so that no new experiences would serve as alienating reminders of past experiences. As he imagines it:
. . .
All along, the driving forces in Rickey’s life has been embarrassment, confusion, and loneliness caused by this rare medical condition, not narcissism.