My family are Red Sox nuts. We have swag, we know stats, and we watch a lot of baseball (well, my flat mates do. I occassionally remember a name and look up fromwhatever I am reading to catch a highlight, and fall asleep before the end). Fun fact that I was not aware of before I signed on – baseball teams play 162 games in the regular season. Think about that. For a committed fan ( and if you are not committed you’re not much of a fan are you?) that means a three hour block of time almost every day throughout the summer and into the fall. And then if you make play offs…
In 2004, I toured Fenway Park twice. On the second tour, the players were leaving practice and getting into their cars and Jason Varitek (then catcher) and I made eye contact. It was a solid five seconds. And then the Red Sox went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1918. I like to think I played a role.
In three hours, a full game is played, from start to finish, a unified whole. Individual moments all play a part in the final outcome. One error in the outfield, one lucky moment at bat – can make all of the difference with respect to who wins and who loses. In philosophic speak, the particularity of each moment is incorporated into the whole, and knowing the particular details is what allows the outcome or end of the game to be understood. A baseball game is a way of understanding human life as lived in time. Or at least, that’s what David Duchovny’s new novel, Bucky F*cking Dent, suggests.
Turns out that Duchovny of X Files and Californication fame, writes novels (2 so far), and they are good (or at least this one was). Bucky F*cking Dent is a story about baseball, specifically the famous rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees and the infamous season of 1978. But more importantly (baseball gods forgive me), it is a story about an estranged father and son, who discover that what they do with their limited time together, like in a baseball game, matters.
Believing his father only has room in his life for the Red Sox, Ted, named after Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time, has abandoned and rejected all that his father held dear, going so far as to getting a job throwing peanuts to fans at Yankee stadium. When he discovers his dad is dying, Ted moves back in and discovers the fantastic truth about time.
Seeing that his father’s health improves when the Red Sox are winning, Ted finds devious and hilarious ways to change the outcome of games. The newly invented VCR, for instance, allows him to switch to a previous game in which the BoSox were victorious, thereby cheating death and gaining extra time with his dad. It’s not illusions though that Marty and Ted need, although they do need the VCR. For it symbolizes the ability of our minds to go back in time, revisit plays and reanalyze what we thought had happened. The particular moments of our lives matter, and it matters that we see and recollect them clearly. As it turns out, Ted’s recollection of his cold father was not the whole the story, and what he discovers now as a young man is that his father ran and runs on love. Just as Ted and Marty’s memories allow them to discover the truth about the past, their imaginations reveal to them the possibilities of the future. Marty who believes he will live as long as the Red Sox win has a dream outlining the 2004 Red Sox victory. He won’t live, at least in the way we think about living, to see that day. But his mind has the capacity to foresee a real future, wherein all of his desires have come to fruition. Like Augustine and Bonaventure, Duchovny suggests that the faculties of our minds allow us to transcend the particular of moments of time and to hold them together as a unified whole in an image of eternity. We are in the present, but can recollect the past and imagine a real future.
At the end of the novel, Marty and Ted have travelled to Bostson to see what becomes the final game of the 1978 Red Sox and Yankees. I won’t spoil either the ending of that game or that of the novel, except to say, that they don’t even go into the stadium. Instead, they listen to the game on the radio, sitting in the car outside of the stadium. The spectacle of the game is no longer essential. Winning the game no longer matters. It is Marty’s sickness and impending death that has reunited this father and son, and, as Marty notes, life belongs to the losers. For it is only in knowing our limitations and the limitats of our time, that we are drawn to to know and participate in the love that transcends time.
But don’t let all of this egg head stuff dissuade you from reading – as you would expect from Duchovny, just as it is about all of these things, it’s also hilarious and sweet. And great books don’t have to be old, dusty monsters. Sometimes they can be frolicking, young beasts too.