A few books have ended up landing here by accident, it seems, like most visitors to JABS Mansion, and so it's a good time for some mini-reviews on the pick of the litter. Coming up later this week: Bobby Orr, The World Cup of limericks, Roberto Clemente. Not your usual book bag, but it's my bloggy and I'll cry if I want to.
Leading off is the return of versatile Dave Bidini: Soon to be retired Rheostatics co-founder (they're playing a farewell gig at Massey Hall in March), sports chronicler, hockey nomad and now, another departure. The Five Hole Stories has Bidini delving into fiction (and theatre - more on that below), a slim but filling (and funny) half dozen short stories that combine national and universal passions: Hockey and sex, of course.
A 1940s hooker and a visiting Maple Leaf, a slumping sniper from the '60s looking to regain his mojo, an '80s role player who plays a deep-in-the-closet Gay One to the Great One, but my own favourite is Cortina - a career minor leaguer one concussion short of oblivion and gone to his last stop in the Italian Hockey League, told by a sportswriter who's stumbled across the player's diary during his research:
Stephen played on Dollar-Beer Night, Four-for-One Corn Dog Night, Clown Wrestling Night, and Party 'Til You Pee Night, where three contestants were required to sit at a little table at centre ice drinking beer during the second intermission, and the last to urinate won a month of free lanes at Tempe Bowlerama. After being traded to Skookum of the WCHL in 2003, Jackson told writer William Gaston that he'd "worn ever kind of sweater: purple, teal, mauve, grey-brown, raspberry, and seventeen different shades of red. I've skated with more guys from countries ending with (the suffix) '-istan' that anybody should have to remember, guys whose last names practically slik off their shoulder down their sleeve. I've spat teeth and cracked bones and pulled ligaments in seventeen states and eight provinces over this humfrickin' planet of ice, which I discoverd the first time I lifted my eyes long enough from my train set to see Glenn Anderson swoop like a heron through four defenders and flick the puck into the net like a guy tossing a coin off the end of his thumb. I was hooked, you know, and that was that.
Flipping between the dry, clueless sportswriter's voice and the foggy confusion of poor, doomed Stephen Jackson, drowning in pills, 40-course meals and love at last, Bidini hits here as good as the best bits from Tropic of Hockey or On a Cold Road. One more excerpt:
Former Columbus Blue Jacket and Dallas Star John Skeeton - whom this writer tried to contact during his time in Renfrew Detention Centre (I was denied access, but a few letters were exchanged) - wrote to me, cryptically: "We all had the clap. We all got the slap. We schwapped and schwapped 'til it all went splat."
Not all of it works quite as well as this, but when it does it's as knowing and biting (literally, at times) as anything ever written about our game, even if it'll never end up on Hockey Night in Canada, witness this back-and-forth between two NHLers, one of them hopelessly smitten with their new, unprecedented goalie:
-She was beautiful! She is beautiful!
-Dude, that nose. I mean, it's not for everyone.
-A nose-bent-by-screaming-puck is very alluring, John. She's a female Patrick Roy with nipples like frosted cherries.
-What's weird is when trades happen in the NHL, I doubt that very many guys wonder what their new teammate is going to look like naked. I mean, I doubt that it's high on their list of questions.
It's headed for a treatment outside the printed page, too, Bidini and Blake Brooker combining on a theatrical adaptation that's scheduled for Calgary in January.
Tomorrow: Searching for Bobby Orr, by Stephen Brunt.