the anti-hero on basketball

It was not as patriotic as baseball, but it seemed to make a lot more sense. Basketball consisted of throwing the large inflated ball through a metal hoop horizontally fastened to a wooden backboard hung vertically high above their heads. The team that threw the ball through the hoop more often was the team that won. All the team won, though, was the same old thrill of winning, and that didn’t make so much sense. Playing basketball made a lot more sense than playing baseball, because throwing the ball through the hoop was not quite as indecorous as running around a bunch of bases and required much less teamwork.

This little bit of sports commentary comes from a “lost” chapter of Catch 22 which did not make it into the book when it was originally published in 1961. The chapter was later published in Playboy, circa 1987, under the title “Yossarian Survives.” In a note he wrote to accompany the Playboy publication, Joseph Heller said that a couple of U.S. Air Force Academy officers contacted him around the time of Catch 22’s 25th anniversary to ask why he had omitted the chapter. “My reactions of surprise were contradictory,” Heller wrote. “I had forgotten I had written in; I was positive I had left it in. ‘Do you mean it’s not there?’ I exclaimed!”

A musical side note: Did you know there’s a ska band out of Jersey named Catch 22?

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Every now and then, I’ll hear someone’s name and think that it perfectly matches her vocation. Lara Zeises is one of the lucky few whose name is so utterly cool that she perhaps could make it as an indie rocker or a world-famous astrologer on the strength of her name alone. Instead, she chose to be a writer, and we’re lucky she did, because the result is her recently released third novel Anyone but You. Kirkus praises the “pitch-perfect narration.” This is a book that knows its audience, a teen angst chick spin that’s rowdy enough for grown-ups who are into reading for a good time. And why shouldn’t reading be a good time, people? The tone reminds me of Katia Noyes’s recent debut, Crashing America, which happens to already be gaining a sort of cult following in San Francisco. Here’s a taste of Zeises’s (try saying that ten times, fast) latest:

Jesse helped, giving Layla half the cash he earned jockeying slushies at the Sip-n-Stop down by the Movie King. Me and Critter were supposed to pick up part-time jobs, too, but when Critter failed English (again) and I scored my own F in biology, it was no go. For one thing, summer school started right after the Fourth of July, and no one would hire us for the few weeks we had off before the start of our Loser Kid classes.

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will the “anonymous” mr. young please stand up

DEC. 5 postscript: Media Bistro today notes my musing that Robert Clark Young’s stink piece about Sewanee may have to do with his having had a bad experience there. Note this comment left by a reader of From Here to Obscurity on Dec. 2. I certainly believe there is room for rational, healthy debate on what Vice might have done differently when it comes to “Tuscaloosa Knights.” However, Young’s article is an extremely questionable piece of “journalism,” relying in part upon an incorrect quotation from of a piece of Vice’s story from his dissertation, the story that later appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. Vice’s actual sentence in the dissertation is much longer and more detailed than Young’s representation of it, which uses ellipses in order to make the sentence look as though it is plagiarized.

original post: Robert Clark Young wasn’t content to just write a nasty, unfounded article bashing Brad Vice, Richard Bausch, Barry Hannah, Josip Novakovich, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and others. He decided to take it a step further, writing an anonymous email to everyone in Vice’s English department pointing them to the article. When one of the faculty members there responded to Young, saying that he sounded like a disgruntled student, Young’s uninspired and vindictive response was that she was “sucking literary cock.”

Since Young is so intent on having everyone read Vice’s dissertation, note that Vice has an epigraph from Carl Carmer on page 144 of the dissertation. It’s also worth mentioning this, which Vice wrote to me in an email: “Mike Curtis at the Atlantic Monthly was fully aware of Jim Dent’s Junction Boys when he edited Report from Junction.”

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good piece on from here to obscurity

Hayden on From Here to Obscurity doesn’t mince words when it comes to Robert Clark Young’s bizarro display of bad vibes and irresponsible reporting in the New York Press a couple of days ago. One reader commented about a terrible licking Young took in Barry Hannah’s Sewanee workshop several years ago, which would explain his tirade against the conference.

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one of the guys

In his oddly ascerbic rant against Brad Vice in the New York Press, Robert Clark Young isn’t content to simply bash Vice, author of The Bear Bryant Funeral Train (read the Funeral Train story here). Young makes it a point to vehemently criticize all things Southern, from the prestigious Sewanee Writers’ Conference to every Southern writer who blurbed Vice’s book or helped Vice in any way at all through the years, including his thesis advisor.

Among his targets are Richard Bausch, author of nine critically acclaimed novels as well as award-winning story collections; andBarry Hannah, author of eight novels, three story collections, and a couple of books of nonfiction.

What publishing credits are under Young’s belt? A single novel, One of the Guys, released in 2000 (Publishers Weekly noted the “improbable plot” and called it an “awkward debut novel,” while Kirkus Review said it was “built from a one-line premise” and that the opening situation was “cliche”). Of course, a couple of unenthusiastic reviews do not a bad book make; reviewers can indeed be flawed or be having a bad day or be careless readers or simply dislike the author. For all I know One of the Guys may be brilliant and misunderstood. But the gist of Young’s attack on Hannah by way of Vice is that Hannah’s latest book got mostly bad reviews but was well-reviewed by Vice. Young takes this to mean that Hannah only said nice things about Bear Bryant Funeral Train in order to pay Vice back for his supposed kindness. Huh? Seems like a leap to me. Not to mention that it’s mighty odd for someone like Young, no darling of the critics by any means, to take shots at the likes of Hannah on the grounds of a few bad reviews.

From the “no good deed goes unpunished” file, Young even attempts a take-down of Josip Novakovich, who happened to be one of the very few folks who had anything positive to say about One of the Guys.

The strangest thing of all, though, is Young’s inaccurate and hate-filled diatribe against the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, with which Vice has been deeply involved and which Young portrays as some backwater hoedown where dirty literary deals are made:

Over those 12 days, many of the South’s leading writers will congregate here. They will decide which of the conference’s attendees should be considered for future scholarships to the conference, which writers should receive letters of recommendation to graduate programs, which hot new novelists should receive blurbs, which conference attendees should be nominated for inclusion in New Stories From the South, and which book-length manuscripts might make good candidates for next year’s Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction. In addition to deciding which writers will be rewarded with career boosts, they will decide which writers will be greeted at the conference with indifference or official silence or, even worse, a coordinated workshop attack.

I’ve been to Sewanee and found it the most pleasant, laid back, unpretentious time I’ve spent among other writers…ever. The workshop in which I participated, which happened to have been led by Bausch, was a very supportive one, far from a place where anyone received “official silence” or a “coordinated attack.” Young even manages a jibe against the “occasional New York editor or agent” who “will be found drinking at Sewanee.” I suppose the publisher of Grove Press, the fiction editor of the New Yorker, and one of the longest-established literary agents in the country don’t make Young’s list of people of merit in the business of literature. (All three were in attendance the year I visited Sewanee).

I thought perhaps Young was just above the whole writers’ conference thing. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with workshops, have drinks with other writers, play the meet & greet game, and all that jazz. Perfectly understandable. But then I realized he isn’t above it at all: he’s an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference. And the Sewanee Writers’ Conference that he so despises, judging by a comment he left on Moby Lives.

So why does Young hate the South so much? Why is he compelled to make such nasty remarks about other authors? Is he just desperate for material, and the Vice story seemed like an easy target? Whatever one’s thoughts are on the Bear Bryant Funeral Train controversy, it’s a strange tactic indeed to take aim at anyone and everyone who has ever been associated with Vice.

A Wikipedia entry on Young notes an essay he published in the Black Warrior Review in 1992 which “is notable for the wry jabs it takes at many of the established writers of the era.” (Young admits to having penned the weirdly glowing Wikipedia entry himself.) Apparently,Young has made a habit of booing other writers with far shinier credentials than his own. In that light, his unfounded attack against Sewanee and the rest isn’t the least bit surprising.

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