The Nonfiction of Rick Harsch

WALK LIKE A DUCK, a season of little league baseball in Italy

646 pages

20€/18€ postage: 8.69€

Perhaps the most unique celebration of the game of baseball ever written, Walk Like a Duck, a Season of Little League Baseball in Italy, is a diary following the 2018 season of the Staranzano Ducks, a team of 15 year olds in northeastern Italy, written by a U.S. novelist who migrated to Izola, Slovenia, a small Venezian-style village near Trieste, whose son plays baseball for these Ducks. Lovers of baseball will revel in the minutia of the game presented, the history—including a fascinating discussion of the sacrifice bunt that revisits the most tragic day in Major League history, when a Carl Mays fastball killed perhaps the greatest bunter of all time, Ray Chapman—the analyses, and the controversies of Major League baseball mixed in with the often hilarious account of children attempting to survive the depredations of adults, who seem constitutionally unable to let the kids simply have fun playing a game. There are umpires who can’t count, fans struggling to understand the infield fly rule, and managers seemingly intent on murdering their own players. As this is a diary, the author has plenty of time to delve deeply into the raucous history of Italy, and particularly the history of the troubled border with first the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Yugoslavia, and now Slovenia. Both World Wars ravaged the peoples of this region, and as you will read in this book, the Cold War, too, managed to blight this area. You will also read about Leonardo da Vinci, James Joyce, Fidel Castro, Rilke, Casanova, and Greg Maddux, along with a review of a new book by contemporary poet Sesshu Foster, along with such dark topics as the anni di piombo—the years of lead— that made Italy one of the Cold War’s most volatile nations. But WAR in this book also includes Wins Above Replacement, as the author discusses some of the changes in the way baseball is viewed by experts. Walk Like a Duck had me running from bombs and at the same time wishing that baseball had been available to me in my childhood in Stuttgart (in the book the German national team wins a tournament!). I admit, too, that it was refreshing to read a book that took note of another country’s inhumanity in war, not that Germany is in the least absolved. As for the game itself, I spent a lot of time on the internet researching baseball so I could understand it to a greater degree, and I even went so far as to call the author, who suggested I find some articles by the right wing US political commentator George Will, who Harsch said was popular among baseball fans in the US, even those on the left. Well, I did, and my view is that this here is an antidote to George Will, a baseball book that honours a pacific game and longs for a pacific world. I came to love the kids, and turn a jaundiced eye on the adults, at least most of them. I recognized the similarities to our football, a game like any other that allows adults to run roughspiked (that’s a Harschian word I made up) over children. I even found myself sucked in to the accounts of particular games, pulling for every kid to succeed, seeing in them the brutalized footballing Hauser of my youth, screamed at by hirsute Neanderthals who didn’t understand I just wanted to be part of a team for a while not the next Gunther Maradona.”

—Klaus Hauser

Arjun and the Good Snake

10€/9€ postage: 5.54€

This is a memoir about alcoholism and venom, all things Indian and some things half, for instance, the author’s son. Rick Harsch is a writer living on the coast of Izola where great wine is cheap and suicide is on his brain. He determines on a trip to stay with his Indian wife’s family in Chennai, India, that he will stay dry, spend his six weeks writing, searching for snakes, carving coconut masks with his son, and veering about Chennai. The book refuses to spare the author as it ranges from gruesome confessional to architectural analysis, the humor of his relationship with his son, his rage against forces he sees arrayed against him, at times quite misguidedly so. 

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