erik lundegaard

My Starting Nine (of the Literary World)

Josh Wilker, voice of the mathematically eliminated, and author of one of my favorite recent books, “Cardboard Gods,” was interviewed a few weeks back by Shelf Awareness, who asked him, among other things, to name his five favorite authors. He did them one better: he gave them a starting nine.

On his own site he asked, a la the MLB Network, “What's your starting nine?”

That's my kinda question.

First, I went with American authors only, partly because it's our national pastime, and partly because I couldn't figure out positions for Tolstoy and Kundera. Then I tried to pick my most-read authors. This is what I came up with:

  • James Baldwin, CF: Great range—from novels to essays to memoir to plays. (.312/.401/.405)
  • Tobias Wolff, 2B: Never hits the ball far but always hits it cleanly; good at moving the man over. (.293/.397/.372)
  • Ernest Hemingway, 1B: The legend. Opposition pitchers quake when he steps up. (.302/.384/.557)
  • Norman Mailer, C: Big mouth behind the plate; big bat at the plate—he’s always swinging for the fences. (.264, .374, .531)
  • John Irving, 3B: Another big hitter, not as naturally talented as Mailer, but he's put together some incredible seasons. (.274/.359/.514)
  • Philip Roth, RF: A line-drive hitter, he sprays it all over the park. (.282/.367/.482)
  • E.L. Doctorow, LF: Just what the world needs, Edgar, another left fielder. (.275/.353/.455)
  • J.D. Salinger, SS: A lot of heart and soul; plus poetry on the glove. (.266/.353/.422)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, P: Crazy lefty. (2.88 ERA)

Leading off, playing center field, and author of "Notes of a Native Son," no. 22, James Baldwin. Baldwin.   Batting second and playing second, number 2, the author of "This Boy's Life," Tobias Wolff. Wolff.  In the third spot and playing first base, number 3, the author of "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest "Big Papa" Hemingway. Hemingway.

Hitting cleanup and catching, number 1, the author of "The Naked and the Dead," Norman Mailer. Mailer.  Fifth, playing third, and author of "The World According to Garp," number 6, John Irving. Irving.   Sixth, the right fielder and author of "The Ghost Writer," number 17, Philip Roth. Roth.

Batting seventh, the left fielder and author of "The Book of Daniel," number 33, E.L. Doctorow. Doctorow.  Eighth and playing shortstop, number 42 and author of "The Catcher in the Rye" and the Glass family series, Jerome David Salinger. Salinger.  Pitching and batting ninth, number 99, author of "Cat's Cradle," Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut.

My starting nine.

This means a lot of talent on the bench, of course: Cather, DeLillo, Morrison, Updike. Serously: Updike? I'm not starting Updike? Don't I want to win this thing?

Originally, by the way, I had Gore Vidal pitching, so I could have a battery of Vidal-Mailer, but then I remembered Doctorow wasn't on the team so someone had to go.

It's a tough, fun exercise. Now what's your starting nine?

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Posted at 07:48 AM on Mon. Apr 11, 2011 in category Books  


Alex Bradbury wrote:

1) Herman Melville
2) John Updike
3) Mark Twain
4) Wallace Stegner
5) Paul Theroux
6) Larry McMurtry
7) Norman Mailer
Ernest Hemingway
9) Peter Matthiessen

Comment posted on Mon. Apr 11, 2011 at 09:10 PM

Alex Bradbury wrote:

Put McMurtry on the bench, send in Steinbeck.

Comment posted on Mon. Apr 11, 2011 at 09:13 PM

Erik wrote:

That's the spirit!

Comment posted on Mon. Apr 11, 2011 at 09:20 PM

Patricia Bradbury wrote:

1) Edith Wharton
2) Jane Austen
3) Robertson Davies
4) Martin Amis
5) Tobias Wolff
6) Graham Greene
7) Dave Eggars
George Eliott
9) Willa Cather

OK, a couple of those I threw in just to be contrary.

Comment posted on Mon. Apr 11, 2011 at 09:26 PM

Alex Bradbury wrote:

Now, Patricia: The rules as I understood them were American authors only. By my count, you've got 4 Americans on your list. I too learned from this exercise that most of my favorite authors would have been cricket players, had they played any game at all. But let's see your list revised to include only real AMERICANS ! (Nabokov would qualify, I believe).

Comment posted on Tue. Apr 12, 2011 at 05:30 AM

patricia bradbury wrote:

That's a ridiculous rule. Besides, it would be so funny to see Martin Amis try to field a ball.

Comment posted on Tue. Apr 12, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Erik wrote:

And, in Patricia's defense, the rule, ridiculous or not, is my rule. It wasn't the rule for Josh Wilker, who began this thing on a whim.

Also, there's not many men more European than Nabakov. He knows too many English words to be American.

Comment posted on Tue. Apr 12, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Kim Spilker wrote:

I have my top nine with some extras on the bench
1. Joan Didion
2. Alice Walker
3. John Irving
4. Eudora Welty
5. Flannery O'Connor
6. Toni Morrison
7. Cormac McCarthy
8. Henry James
9. Ernest Hemingway
10. Kaye Gibbons
11. F. Scott Fitzgerald
12. Zora Neale Hurston
13. Charles Bukowski

Comment posted on Tue. Apr 12, 2011 at 08:18 PM

Jacob Slichter wrote:

Finally, Fitzgerald makes the list! Thank you, Kim.

My pick for manager, Mark Twain. He seems the most likely to be chewing and/or spitting.

Should we start giving these folks their baseball names? Allie Walker? Ernie Hemmingway? Hank James?

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 07:33 AM

Erik wrote:

RE: Twain: And great copy for that post-game interview.

Re: Fitzgerald: Agreed. I read that and went, “Wow, how did I miss him?” The I answered: Probably because while I re-read “Gatsby” I haven't gotten into his other novels. Should I try again?

RE: Baseball names. Yes! And don't forget nicknames. I've already given one to Hemingway, which you can see if you hover the mouse over his picture: “Big Papa,” a mix of his real nickname and David Ortiz's “Big Papi.”

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 07:46 AM

Erik wrote:

Example: “Wee Willa” Cather.

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 07:47 AM

Jacob Slichter wrote:

“Tender Is the Night” is not in the league of Gatsby, in my opinion. Haven't read the others. Nevertheless, Gatsby lands Scooter Fitzgerald on my team.

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 08:05 AM

Jacob Sllichter wrote:

A rather lax drug and alcohol policy in this league, I presume.

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 08:11 AM

Erik wrote:

Like the Majors in the 1990s.

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 08:15 AM

Tim wrote:

No only-Americans rule here. Also no DH. Also a more subjective interpretation of “favorite.”

2B Robert A. Heinlein
CF Max Barry
LF Nick Hornby
1B Haruki Murakami
C John Irving
3B Michael Chabon
RF David Mitchell
SS Douglas Coupland
P Philip K. Dick

On the bench:
Tom Perrotta
Spider Robinson
Octavia Butler
Connie Willis

In the 'pen:
Arthur C. Clarke

Comment posted on Wed. Apr 13, 2011 at 02:36 PM
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