Talking with Geoff Wyss

I had a great time talking writing with Geoff Wyss. We met at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference back in 2013 (we were suitemates in a dorm, which was something we discovered only halfway through the thing) and I’m glad we met. Writing-wise, he’s about polar opposite of what I’m trying to do. And, to be clear: he’s already mastered what I’m trying to to–traditional “moralist” fiction with traditional story arcs and so forth–and now he’s waist-deep in something else. He’s an exciting writer, and one of the smartest, quickest guys I know. Also he’s terrible at squash. I have no idea if that’s true. I’m sure he’s great at it. He’s just the only guy I’ve ever met who plays squash.

Here’s our talk, up at the Baltimore Review:


That other religion

I don’t know why–let’s blame the act of getting older–but I’ve gotten back into baseball again. So, as one does, I’ve been watching introductions to games one of past World Series. Relics, time capsules of how actual, non-acting humans moved, looked, talked, is one of the best parts about things like Youtube. For all its straight-up time-waste properties, you can get something out of it, too.

So, early 1980s (I’m talking Orioles-Phillies in ’83 and Tigers-Padres in ’84):

  • So many more black ballplayers and so many fewer Latinos. It’s remtumblr_mb0suxMX2P1qhqxuso1_1280arkable.
  • So many mustaches. My dad had one back then and I guess so did every other dad in America. Everyone looks like they’re doing a Magnum P.I. impression.
  • The lighting in the parks is so much spottier or thinner than it is now. Look at the now-razed Tiger Stadium. It looks like a high-school field, the way it’s lit. In general, though it’s only been 30 or so years, the logistics, the surfaces of the game have been super-charged. Obviously, with money. Everything’s shinier now. I suppose this comes with the fact that every game now is on TV, of course. Back then, I remember you’d be lucky to get a game a week on TV. When every blade of grass is on display (and shot on better cameras under better lights, etc.), you’re going to make sure that blade of grass looks good.
  • The pitching is so much slower. Everyone now throws seventeen billion miles per hour.
  • The names! Chet Lemon. Sparky Anderson. Al Bumbry. Jack Morris. Like a peek into a world that feels familiar but which is just past what we can touch.
  • Finally, the atmosphere, the parks, the broadcasts, well, they’re so much more milquetoast. Baseball’s never been very cutting-edge (it’s not the NBA or the NFL) but, still, everything feels like it came from, you know, a studio in Springfield, Illinois. Though I’m sure that someone in 1984 looking back on broadcasts from 1954 would have had a similar reaction. This culture of ours, it keeps on zooming.