Week Six: “The Silent Season of a Hero” by Gay Talese and “The Thrill of the Grass” by W.P. Kinsella


 “The Silent Season of a Hero”  by Gay Talese



Joe DiMaggio

We’ll be looking at the art of sports writing. Specifically, baseball. So batter up!

“In October 1965, Gay Talese . . .suggested to his editors at Esquire that the next piece he wanted to write was about Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio was by then the mythic baseball hero to two generations of Americans, a figure of epic proportions, albeit an almost completely unexamined one, and Talese wanted to do a portrait of DiMaggio some fourteen years after his last big game. What happens, Talese wondered, to a great figure after the cheering stops, and what kind of man was DiMaggio anyway? . . . Off he set for San Fransisco, Fisherman’s Warf, and the DiMaggio family restaurant.”


Slow Motion Swing of the Yankee Clipper


The resulting article would end up being what editor David Halberstam called the “ perfect union of reporter, magazine, and subject matter at a critical time in the history of nonfiction journalism.” He even placed it as the first foundational essay in The Best American Sports Writing of the Century (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
What do you know about Joe DiMaggio? Or the controversial Talese?
Here is “The Silent Season of a Hero,” by Gay Talese.

A bit about Gay Talese:

talese_3Gay Talese was born in Ocean City, New Jersey, on February 7th, 1932, to Italian immigrant parents. He attended the University of Alabama, and after graduation was hired as a copyboy at the New York Times. After a brief stint in the Army, Talese returned to the New York Times in 1956 and worked there as a reporter until 1965. Since then he has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Harper’s Magazine.

Gay Talese has written fourteen books. His earlier bestsellers deal with the history and influence of the New York Times (The Kingdom and the Power, recently reissued in trade paperback by Random House); the inside story of a Mafia family (Honor Thy Father); the changing moral values of America between World War II and the era before AIDS (Thy Neighbor’s Wife); a historical memoir about his family’s immigration to America from Italy in the years preceding World War II (Unto the Sons, also recently reissued by Random House); and other such books as The Bridge, about the construction of the Verrazano-Narrows span between Brooklyn and Staten Island; New York: A Serendipiter’s Journey, a series of vignettes and essays on New York; and Fame and Obscurity, a collection of his articles principally from the pages of Esquire magazine, where he was credited by Tom Wolfe with the creation of an inventive form of nonfiction writing called “The New Journalism.”




As well it may be interesting to take a look at an letter which speaks to the heart of the dream of baseball. It’s from the wonderful website archive, “Letters of Note” curated by Shawn Usher . . .

“On December 7th of 1941, the Japanese Navy carried out a devastating attack on the U.S.’s naval base at Pearl Harbor, and ultimately sealed the Americans’ participation in World War II. Just a month later, Kenesaw Landis — then-Commissioner of Baseball in the U.S. — asked President Roosevelt whether the upcoming baseball season should be called off in light of current events.

Roosevelt replied with the letter seen below. Needless to say, baseball continued.

The White House

January 15, 1942.

My dear Judge:-

Thank you for yours of January fourteenth. As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball Club owners — so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.

I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.

As to the players themselves I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if any individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.

Here is another way of looking at it — if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens — and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.

With every best wish,

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Hon. Kenesaw M. Landis,
333 North Michigan Avenue,




(from the website  Letters of Note)


“The Thrill of the Grass” by W.P. Kinsella




W. P. “Bill” Kinsella was a legendary fiction writer, best known for his award-winning novel Shoeless Joe, which took on a new life as the movie Field of Dreams.
In addition to Shoeless Joe, a romantic, magic realism baseball novel, Bill wrote other fiction in that genre, such as The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and Magic Time.
Bill Kinsella also wrote numerous baseball short story collections.

Here is the title story from one collection, “The Thrill of the Grass”.



kinsellaW. P. “Bill” Kinsella was a legendary fiction writer, best known for his award-winning novel Shoeless Joe, which took on a new life as the movie Field of Dreams. The author’s inspirational words, which defined the novel and the film—“If you build it, they will come,” “Go the distance,” and even “Field of dreams”—have taken their place in literature’s lexicon of ideas.

While Kinsella is best known for his baseball fiction, he has a prolific output in many genres. Kinsella is the author of numerous other books, including novels, short fiction collections, poetry, three baseball plays, and several works of non-fiction.

Week Five: “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “Between Solitude and Loneliness” by Donald Hall


Illustration from an article in The Atlantic by Joe Fassler.

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

“A Rose For Emily” is a classic short story by William Faulkner, anthologized in so many required reading collections that one loses count:
William Faulkner (born William Cuthbert Falkner), (September 25, 1897–July 6, 1962) was an American author. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. His reputation is based on his novels, novellas, and short stories. However, he was also a published poet and also was a screenwriter of such movies as The Big Sleep.

“A Rose For Emily” is a deceptive story, short and yet within its few pages lays a mystery. And each reading of the story will reveal nuances and details perhaps missed the last time.
The story begins with the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson, an eccentric lady of the town whose life was caught up in her home. For your consideration, here is  “A Rose for Emily.”

Can you tell what happened?

“A Rose For Emily” originally appeared in These Thirteen, a 1931 collection of short stories. The collection was dedicated to his first daughter, Alabama, who had died nine days after her birth on January 11, 1931, and to his wife Estelle.


The First Edition of These Thirteen

Faulkner’s first release of short stories, it contained the following pieces:

Additionally,  modern and comprehensive collection of Faulkner’s stories can be found in  William Faulkner Collected Stories from Vintage (Amazon, here)


From the Vintage promotional materials:

Forty-two stories make up this magisterial collection by the writer who stands at the pinnacle of modern American fiction. Compressing an epic expanse of vision into hard and wounding narratives, Faulkner’s stories evoke the intimate textures of place, the deep strata of history and legend, and all the fear, brutality, and tenderness of the human condition. These tales are set not only in Yoknapatawpha County, but in Beverly Hills and in France during World War I. They are populated by such characters as the Faulknerian archetypes Flem Snopes and Quentin Compson, as well as by ordinary men and women who emerge so sharply and indelibly in these pages that they dwarf the protagonists of most novels.

“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty

“For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for greatness of our classics.” —Ralph Ellison

After reading “A Rose For Emily” it may be of use to regard a poem by Faulkner entitled  “After Fifty Years” (find it here): a meditation on mortality.

It’s an interesting poem in several ways. It may be useful to discuss why Faulkner chose the form of the sonnet for this piece.


Faulkner at UVA

Additionally, true scholars and fans of Faulkner must certainly peruse an incredible resource: the website archive, Faulkner at Virginia.

In 1957/58 William Faulkner was Balch Writer in Residence at The University of Virginia. While he was there, he gave many class lectures and answered many student questions.

Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner, members of UVA’s English department, had the idea to record these sessions on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and create transcripts of those lectures.

This website featuress those clips, which you can explore by title, where the author answers the students’ questions in class asked about “A Rose For Emily” and all of his other works. My recommendation is to explore this website on a full screen if possible, and start with the tab “Contexts”. Then, click on “Clips” to see the recordings organized by novel and story title. It’s a treasure trove.

Faulkner on audio, articles, photographs, transcripts, magazine clippings – I strongly encourage any student studying William Faulkner to explore this website, if only to hear him teach you how to pronounce ” Yoknapatawpha.”


“Between Solitude and Loneliness” by Donald Hall


Illustration from The New Yorker

The second selection for Week Five is an essay by the poet Donald Hall, entitled “Between Loneliness and Solitude” (The New Yorker.)

From his biography:

“Donald Hall is considered one of the major American poets of his generation. His poetry explores the longing for a more bucolic past and reflects the poet’s abiding reverence for nature.”
In December 1993 he and Jane Kenyon were the subject of an Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers documentary ,  A Life Together. In the June 2006, Hall was appointed the Library of Congress’s fourteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. He lives in Danbury, New Hampshire.”

Here, Hall examines his long partnership with his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon. What are your thoughts on Hall’s essay?

Hall’s essay can be found here.

The language is sparse, reflective and declarative.

From the website of The Academy of American Poets:

“Hall has published numerous books of poetry, including The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), The Painted Bed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002) and Without: Poems (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1998), which was published on the third anniversary of his wife and fellow poet Jane Kenyon‘s death from leukemia. Other notable collections include The One Day (Mariner Books, 1988), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination; The Happy Man (Secker & Warburg, 1986), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and Exiles and Marriages (Viking Press, 1955), which was the Academy’s Lamont Poetry Selection for 1956.

In a review of White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946–2006 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), Billy Collins wrote: “Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet. His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no-nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority. It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines.”

It’s worthwhile to take a few moments to read Hall’s poem, “The Painted Bed.”

It provides an interesting tangent to the study of his essay as well as  Faulkner’s story and poem.

Additionally, check out “My Son, My Executioner” –another poem which was added to the Wonderlings discussion by member Rick Williams, in which the narrator laments;

We twenty two and twenty five,
who seemed to live forever,
observe enduring life in you
and start to die together.

(from “My Son, My Executioner”)

In an interesting synchronicity, here is Hall reciting the poem (first in the lineup)  as part of a program at, of all places, The University of Virginia, where Faulkner was writer in residence. And so we come full circle. Enjoy.

Week Four: The Child God and The Scapegoat: “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin



“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby


Actor Bill Mumy in The Twilight Zone adaptation of “It’s a Good Life”


We start with a 1953 short story called “It’s a Good Life” by the author Jerome Bixby. The story was adapted for the television series The Twilight Zone and is considered by many, such as Time Magazine and TV Guide, to be one of the best episodes of the series. It originally aired on November 3, 1961.


Serling’s opening narration for the televised episode began thus, as he stood in front of a common map on a wall:

Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village.

Young Anthony Fremont is a  three-year-old boy who initially appears to be like any other child growing up in a small American town. Yet something is awry. He has an “odd shadow” and a “bright, wet, purple gaze” . . .the obstetrician at his birth was said to have “screamed and dropped him and tried to kill him”. As he grows, the town’s children are told that Anthony is a “nice goblin”, but they must never go near him.

Bixby’s story mostly takes place during a surprise birthday party for the Fremonts’ neighbor, Dan Hollis. The residents take turns passing around certain objects, like books, music, or furniture, since they cannot acquire anything new from the outside world.

Bixby’s story has been published many times, and was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964, an anthology of the greatest science fiction short stories prior to 1965, as judged by the Science Fiction Writers of America

Enjoy. And feel free to discuss other works on this week’s theme. You’ve got the power.

Read Bixby’s story here:

It’s a good life


A bit about Jerome Bixby . . .

Jerome Bixby was a short story writer as well as editor and script writer. He also wrote four episodes for the Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the classic sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage (1966), television series, and novel by Isaac Asimov were based. Bixby’s final work was the screenplay for the 2007 cult sci-fi film The Man From Earth.


The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Compare/contrast this short (4-page) story by the author Ursula K. Le Guin entitled: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” It’s a 1973 plotless, short, descriptive work of philosophical fiction, though popularly classified as a short story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. With deliberately both vague and vivid descriptions, the narrator briefly depicts a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Short Fiction in 1974 and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1974″ (Wikipedia) . It is anthologized often and cited as a “top 100 story” by many critics. The story raises questions about the infrastructure of societies which thrive; about anarchy and Utopia.

You can read Le Guin’s short story here.




A bit about Le Guin . . .



Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2015, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. Her most recent publications are The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, 2012, and Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, 2015.






Week Three: Sharing This Space: “A Private Experience” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan



“A Private Experience”, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In 2005, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. In 2007: Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize. 2008: the author was awarded MacArthur “genius grant”.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This week we include a short story by Adichie. For your introspection, here is A Private Experience, from her short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck.

A Private Experience follows two women who find shelter in a shop following a riot in Kano. You can read it here.

Let us know your thoughts.

“Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan

Next for your reading and viewing today, we hope you’ll consider the speech “Pale Blue Dot”, offered by Carl Sagan.

Sagan prepared these comments in reaction to a photograph of Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40.5 AU), as part of the “Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.”
During a public lecture at Cornell University in 1994, Carl Sagan presented the image to the audience and shared his reflections on the deeper meaning behind the idea of the pale blue dot: Sagan also titled his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space after the photograph.

In Sagan’s speech we look across space at our own microcosm.Sagan included this piece in his book of the same name, Pale Blue Dot.

What context might this add to confronting our cultural narratives and differences in a confined space in the Adichie story?

Here is a YouTube clip of “Pale Blue Dot”, as well as the written speech: