What do Fantasy Baseball, Nick Hornby, and Gina Barreca have in common? They've all popped up in my life within a few weeks of each other, and strangely, when blended together, have inspired today's blog post. This, of course, is the obvious answer, but figuring out exactly how they've done so is the tricky part. Any guesses? There's a clue in the blog title...
Okay, I'll put you out of our misery and tell you. Nick Hornby and Gina Barreca are both brilliant critics and hilarious writers. If you don't follow Gina's blog, you really should, and if you haven't read Nick (yes, I'm on a first-name basis - in my head - with both of them) by now, well, you've got some 'esplainin' to do. Aside from that, however, they also seem to be clued into a similar wavelength, as they've both written about a phenomenon Nick calls "Fantasy Literature" and Gina calls "imaginary tradeoffs".
Familiar with Fantasy Football leagues? I was having lunch with a friend the other day who mentioned her recent obsession with her Fantasy Baseball league - the first time I'd heard of such a thing, but maybe I was just late coming to the game (that happens sometimes, I can't be on top of everything, you know). It works in pretty much the same way, where you get to create a team (a fantasy team, your dream team, if you could have any and all the ball players in, well, not the world, but the States at least, on one team, this is your chance). You get a league of people together, either private or public, and then have your own draft, and then depending on how your players do during the games they play in real life, they get awarded so many points for being on your team. The person with the most amount of points from players on their team (or something like that) wins at the end of the season (for a blog post that explains this in a little bit fuller, okay, better, detail, go here). My friend was lamenting she was unable to choose her players "in person;" instead she had to rank them and then let the autopilot fill in, so she only has one Sox player (Youk, I think, if memory serves) actually on her fantasy team, but that's how the cards fall, I guess. Anyway, that aside, I was thrilled when later that same day, I read a passage in Nick Hornby's Pollysyllabic Spree that went like this:
"Reading...now means that one can, if one wants, play Fantasy Literature - match writers off against each other and see who won over the long haul."
Brilliant! And which reminded me of one of Gina's blog posts the same friend had forwarded me sometime recently, entitled "Would You Trade T.S. Eliot for George Eliot?" about something similar, only in Gina's case, she takes it a step further.
"What else are imaginary tradeoffs? I'd give up Scrabble for Monopoly. I'd give up The New Yorker for People. I would give up the paintings of Van Gogh for The Simpsons. I would give up Marilyn Monroe for Mae West, T.S. Eliot for George Eliot, Arthur Miller for Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway for Virginia Woolf, Woody Allen for Lily Tomlin, Naomi Wolf for Cynthia Heimel, Andy Rooney for Dave Barry, and Andy Warhol for a flip-top soup can."
While I may not agree with all her tradeoffs, for the sentiment - Double Brilliant!
So what if we combine the two? Though being generally interested in baseball, I confess to not being obsessed with players stats, teams other than the Sox, Yanks, and Mets, nor do I like to think too long about how much money these guys are getting paid to hit a little ball with a stick and run around some sand bags (shock, gasp, take a moment - okay? Moving on.). This basically means that a Fantasy Baseball league would not be for me, but a Fantasy Literature league that not only pits book against book, author against author, but also life against books and personal desires against practical realities? I'm trembling with excitement at the thought.
In my Fantasy league, Tolkein would win over C.S. Lewis. Little House on the Prarie over American Girls. Nick Horby's essays in The Polysyllabic Spree would tie with Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. Memoirs of a Geisha, movie vs. book, would tie. A hike in the woods over Gone with the Wind, any day of the week. How I Met Your Mother would win over FRIENDS. I would give up my car for the ability to eat starch again without a belly ache. I would go through life without my left arm, for the ability to sing like Etta James.
It's a bit of an awakening (sorry, Kate Chopin, no pun intended) to think about where your priorities might lie.