October 25, 2010

Touched By A Genius

The horrors of the advertising business, a compelling National League pennant race, and an obsession to re-write every one of these goddamn posts five times, have conspired to give me a nice variety of unwholesome reasons for not doing any serious reading lately.

However, last week on vacation I picked up Philip Roth's Pulitzer winning novel American Pastoral. It is simply a work of amazing brilliance.

Anyone who's ever tried to earn a nickel writing knows that if in your lifetime you can come up with one truly original insight into human behavior you're ahead of most. Roth seems to be able to accomplish this ten to the page.

I think there's a part of all of us that wants to believe we are somehow connected to extraordinary people. Like the girl who tells you that a rock musician went to her high school, as if that was some kind of achievement on her part or validation of her worth.

I had a similar experience with Roth.

In the beginning of American Pastoral he comments extensively on a baseball novel written for kids by John R. Tunis called The Kid From Tompkinsville. As it happens, this was my favorite book when I was young. I have never met anyone else who's ever heard of it, no less read it.

I spent the better part of one summer reading all of Tunis's sports books. I would hit my local library every week in the insane hope that in the preceding week Tunis had turned out another novel. Hey, it only took me a few days to read 'em, why did it take him so damn long to write 'em?

When I read Roth's reminiscences of The Kid From Tompkinsville I was thrilled.

I pictured an 11-year old Roth lying in bed in a hot apartment on a still summer night reading about The Kid, just as I had done. Somehow, in my senile imagination, the idea that Roth and I shared The Kid created a bond between us.

Me and my man Phil. BFF.

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