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  
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