Philosophy & Baseball


058) Take Time for Paradise by A. Bartlett Giamatti, finished August 11

This is a book about baseball. Sort of. It's supposed to be about baseball. The subtitle, "Americans and Their Games", the cover image (Fenway Park), and the number of times the word "baseball" is used on the cover (nine on my ARC), one might expect a bit more baseball than is actually featured.

But here's a list of his other books, to give you a sense of who this author is:
    The Earthly Paradise and the Renaissance Epic Play of Double Senses: Spenser’s Faerie Queene The University and the Public Interest Exile and Change in Renaissance Literature

Giamatti, before becoming commissioner of Major League Baseball, was Yale's youngest president and before that a professor of literature thereat. So that's the person writing this book.

The book is broken into three sections, which I'll talk about separately.


Even though it's not really about baseball (at all), this is my favorite of the three sections. In essence, Giamatti argues that work should be defined as that which staves off death. Leisure, in contrast, is what we do to celebrate death staved off.

Leisure includes school (our English word comes from the Greek word for leisure, incidentally --- Giamatti can never resist a chance to poke in a bit of etymology) and sport, both. Leisure activities such as these exist in a space outside death / not death. It is our original Paradise. It is freedom of mind and body.

Art and sport and study are all activities we do outside our battle with death.

Compelling stuff and fun arguments.


Here we get a similar set of arguments that suggest that cities are the great artifacts of human culture and what cities mean and how sports tie into citylife. Interesting, but I'm kind of ready to see how baseball is more compelling than other sports already.

Baseball as Narrative

In this sliver of a book, this is a sliver of a section.

I have often argued that sports --- let's be specific and say football --- is symbolic warfare, two armies battling it out on the field. But that story doesn't work so well with baseball. And Giamatti makes a compelling argument that the archetype baseball calls on is the Odyssey. Leaving home and, through dangers, attempting to return home.

And then he shows why this story applies especially well to Americans. This part got short shrift, imho, but I got the gist.

And then he tells a story about the 1987 NLCS which I suppose is illustrative of his arguments and that is certainly poetically written.

And then the little epilogue which is a nice little summary. The end.

Did I like the book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. It's only 100 pages and well written and smart, which is nice. I like a bit of philosophy with my sports. But it wasn't quite what I was expecting and I think it's a little less baseball than promised. So expect that. Because it's not how they're selling it

a monthish

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Previously in 2011 . . . . :

057) The Shining by Stephen King, finished August 9
056) I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells, finished August 6
055) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, finished August 2
054) Moneyball by Michael Lewis, finished July 12
053) Madman New Giant Size Super Ginchy Special by Mike Allred et al, finished approximately July 9

052) The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld, finished July 8
051) Wilson by Daniel Clowes, finished July 6

050) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, finished July 1
049) Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby, finished June 25
048) The Light Princess by George Macdonald, finished June 22
047) Half a Life by Darin Strauss, finished June 17
046) Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (siblings), finished June 16

045) Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card, finished June 10
044) Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 by E.B. White (edited by Rebecca M. Dale), finished June 7
043) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished May 31
042) Unnamed book by unnamed client (MS POLICY),
finished May 27

041) Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
040) Scott Pilgrim Versus The Unverse by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
039) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 13
037) The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse, finished May 11
036) Scott Pilgrim Versus The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
035) Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
034) The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 by Charles M. Schulz, finished May 1
033) Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli finished approximately April 27

032) Golden Gate by Seth Vikram, finished April 20

031) Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope, finished April 18
030) The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, finished April 9
029) iZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, finished April 2
028) A Sense of Order and Other Stories by Jack Harrell, finished April 1
027) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, finished March 30

026) The Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, finished March 21

025) Stitches by David Small, finished March 20
024) Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth, finished January 19 or 20
023) Hamlet by William Shakespeare, finished March 18

022) Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred, finished March 10
021) Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker, finished March 10

020) The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill, finished February 28

019) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished February 21
018) Redcoat by Kohl Glass (MS POLICY), finished February 18

017) Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, finished February 12
016) Little Bee by Chris Cleave, finished February 10
015) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, finished February 2
014) Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Vol. I by Jeremy Bastian, finished January 31

013) Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
012) Sweet Tooth: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
011) Essex County: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
010) Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29
009) Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27

007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2


  1. .

    Forgot to mention (though I suppose saying "ARC" may have been mention enough) that I got this book for free from the publisher.

  2. Th said: "I have often argued that sports --- let's be specific and say football --- is symbolic warfare, two armies battling it out on the field."

    I am, always have been, a football fan for precisely this reason. That may or may not surprise you.

    I'm only now beginning the odyssey into baseball and philosophy. I never really understood why it held people in such a trance.

    1. .

      Did the Royals win help?

      [gmail was missorting my comments---I've probably missed lots more than just yours]