John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Class A

I mentioned not long ago that at some point in the future I would be reading a book called Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere by Lucas Mann. I have arrived at that point; in fact, I'm almost past it, being now just 10 pages from the end.

I'm sorry to say I didn't think it was very good. It's fussy and overwritten; the author rarely lets a page go by without "going crazy with adjectives" (Mann's own words describing himself, found on page 237) or piling more and more lyrical descriptions into one or more of the sentences. Here's a paragraph that really stands out in that regard:

I don't know of the things Tim tells me are true, but I don't think they're lies. Tim is a fantastic rememberer, in the creative sense. The whole Family is. Baseball stories mix into town stories mix into stories about love, about shenanigans, about specific moments when everybody in a neighborhood that doesn't really exist anymore would go from house to house, stopping to sit in lawn chairs out by the street, every door open, the nights endless. Tim tells me of himself as a boy, heavy but fit, slow but powerful. He was a boy in these bleachers, almost where we are right now, a boy, too, in the summer on the farm where his mother grew up, a boy on his paper route—of course he had one—biking through Clinton smelling something sweeter coming out of the smokestacks. Because Clinton made candy then (and then booze), delicious and relatable items for parents to boast to children about. (p. 145)

That sort of thing might be fine to listen to, if someone like Garrison Keillor was saying it, but it makes my eyes roll when I come across it on the printed page. I might even go so far as to describe it using Mann's own words: "It is stupid, probably, pretentious, definitely." (p. 159)

Mann also wastes a lot of space memoiring about his dead brother and his own mediocre history as a baseball player and his feelings of inadequacy among the young athletes with whom he spent most of his time during the year he spent observing the Clinton LumberKings. The history of Clinton, Iowa, and of the LumberKings' 2010 season is not uninteresting, and the fans and players he profiles are colorful. He's not that colorful, though, and his maudlin reflections on his life add little of any value to the book.

Having said all that, Mann did write something toward the end about fandom that really resonated with me. He was talking about how an Ohioan he met used a crude racial slur to describe LeBron James after he decamped from Cleveland in search of an NBA title in Miami.

It's the flip side of adoration. It's supporting a guy so much, investing so much in the hope for his success, that it feels reasonable to be personally hurt by his failures. (p. 290)

Yes. That is as perfect a description of what it's like to be a fan as I've ever read. If only the rest of the book had been that good.

Tags: fandom, iowa, reading: books, sports: baseball

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