July 20, 2007

"Ballet aficionados are just sports fans in formal wear.: They, too, are obsessed with a physical act, honed by a manic devotion and years of repetition, transformed by the force of one moment, one crowd, and one serendipitous confluence of circumstances into something beautiful. If you’re any good as a writer, you’ll be able to grasp and then channel just a bit of that; if you’re really good, you can do it night after night. But now and then you get it all: the dramatic home run, the perfect quote, the most perceptive take on what everyone saw, and then, if you’re even luckier, you see the story clear in your head and get time enough to hammer it into your keyboard." S.L. Price on sportswriting.

posted by Uncle Toby to culture at 09:26 AM - 9 comments

Thanks for this, absolutely fantastic post.

posted by yerfatma at 12:24 PM on July 20, 2007

I don't really have anything to say about it other than thanks for a link to a great story, UT.

posted by holden at 01:09 PM on July 20, 2007

Wow!!! What a superb piece of writing. In his last 3 paragraphs Price doesn't merely present the essence of what it is to be a writer, he gives a perfect distillation of life itself. I'm a systems engineer for a large defense contractor. As such I do a lot of work on field tests. After having done this for more than 40 years, I still get an enormous rush from pulling together all of the elements needed to do a test and then having them work flawlessly the first time, every time. This is what Price is talking about. If you have a passion for what you do, you will keep at it through all the bad times just to get that one sweet moment. I'm going to pass this one on to my soon-to-be-college-freshman (Penn State) son. I hope he will realize that once he discovers his passion, it will own him and sustain him.

posted by Howard_T at 01:16 PM on July 20, 2007

Great piece. I think the opening paragraph defined, to me, what it was to leave home for the first time, travel 3000 miles, and go to school in a place that was nothing like your home. The sense of being reborn, and youthfully feeling alien and exotic to people who were as unfamiliar with you as you were with them.

posted by THX-1138 at 02:03 PM on July 20, 2007

Howard_T: What a terrific comment. Funny, pop culture likes to pidgeonhole engineering types as soul-free, analytical Gradgrinds, but the engineers I know always talk about experiences like yours--the moment when rigorous preparation yields excellence--with great passion. Moreover, your notion of being at once owned and sustained by a passion marks your son as fortunate in his father. For my part, the joy Price finds in mastery--both his own and others'--reminds me of the first stanza of Hopkins's "The Windhover": The Windhover To Christ our Lord I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing! Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion. Gerard Manly Hopkins

posted by Uncle Toby at 02:09 PM on July 20, 2007

KONG RAN MY DEALERSHIP GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS Disclaimer: may not actually be GMH, but that's what you get for putting As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame stuck in my head.

posted by yerfatma at 02:30 PM on July 20, 2007

I certainly would never have expected a poem in this thread, but thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite poems.

posted by trox at 02:34 PM on July 20, 2007

Uncle Toby, you have created a monster. I thought our occasional stumbling attempts at haiku were bad, but now yerfatma has led us into the dangerous depths of Francis Heaney. I'm afraid my weekend will be spent at the link reading the parodies. Seriously, Unc, thanks for the Hopkins. I was not familiar with it, and now I'm going to have to find more.

posted by Howard_T at 03:51 PM on July 20, 2007

I always thought of GMH as the WASP Yeats. Where Yeats lusted after Maude Gonne, Hopkins pined for Jesus.

posted by yerfatma at 04:17 PM on July 20, 2007

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