Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Aurora County All-Stars is Here!

"It's an American novel!" says Pat Grant of Windows, A Bookshop in Monroe, Louisiana. She is interviewing me for THE BOOK REPORT, a syndicated radio program Pat and Elisabeth Grant-Gibson host each week.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"Well, it's obvious!" says Pat, incredulous that I haven't picked up on this. "It's got baseball, Walt Whitman, Thornton Wilder and 'Our Town', the integration of baseball, the Fourth of July, a town pageant, community, family... baseball!"

"Oh," I say. "I never thought about it like that."

Isn't that the way it is. If I'd sat down and tried to write "an American novel," I'd have failed. I wrote a story about friendship, connection, community, baseball, the arts, love, family... and kids who made me laugh. A dog named Eudora Welty. Mamas who want their boys to dance. Boys who want to play baseball. And Pat Grant, discerning reader, saw "an American novel."

What I really wanted to do was tell a story to ten-year-old me. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to touch the deepest place I could touch. I hope I did that. I wrote an American novel, according to Pat. I like that. Let's say she's right:

Who are we, then, we Americans, we human beings? What do we value? And will a six-year-old girl named Honey get to tap dance? Will a 12-year-old pitcher with a newly healed elbow get to play ball? Will the mystery of an old man's identity -- and another old man's sacrifice -- be revealed? And what does that say about PeeWee Reese and Jackie Robinson? What about Sandy Koufax? What about Leaves of Grass?

"I celebrate myself and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

I gave myself a challenge when I wrote this book. I tried to write the symphony true.