Friday April 8th, 2011

A Selection

From My Life as a Fan by Wilfrid Sheed:

That winter, I turned twelve, which means I was just about fully developed as a fan. We mature early as a breed, somewhere between lyric poets, who I understood from my reading to be elderly gentlemen of eighteen or so, and chess players, who apparently hit their stride around four. Recently I chanced to reread an article on Ted Williams written by young Cleveland Armory in 1942, and was shocked to find myself reacting to it in exactly the same way as I had then, without any adult ironies or overtones or voices murmuring “Can’t you see the writer is really saying this?” or “It’s obvious that Williams was just a case of [name your favorite neurosis]”: it was as if I had put the piece down the day before and face value was still quite good enough for me.

So what had gone wrong? Had I failed to grow up at all since then, or was I grown up already in that one respect? The answer in the case of Williams may simply be that in 1942 it was just a case of one twelve-year-old reading about another and life wasn’t going to teach me a hell of a lot more about being twelve than I already knew. And this may be true of other superstars too whose inner resources have been entirely diverted into physical expression, like streams rushing into a great river. (“Did Fred Astaire ever say anything interesting?” says a friend. “Only every time he danced,” say I.)