JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

On Writing

There are probably hundreds of people in this country who consider the sports pages a place for idiots and fools to unite in their love of the inane; a place where mediocre hacks meet up with the minimally IQed to praise simple men who swing wood sticks and hurl skins of pig through the air.

All this might be true.

That said, this evening I was scanning the Facebook bios of some old high school classmates when I stumbled upon one person who works as a writer. Way back at Mahopac High School this guy was as arrogant and smug as they came—a snot-nosed prep who thought himself better than the rest of us. I’m not suggesting people don’t change in 18 years—they certainly do. But this is what he wrote about his current work:

I’m writing a book that finds the humanity in the open relationships of Emerson & Fuller, Lou & Rilke, Stieglitz & O’Keeffe, Diego & Frida, Sartre & Beauvoir, & Miller & Nin. Writing the book has helped me search for healthier ways to purge the contempt and self-loathing these lovers all internalized for having grown up in a culture damaged by industrial modernism. I think that we live in the most exciting times in history, because new kinds of relationships—new fulfillments between people, are possible now which were never really possible before.

Uh … yeah. I suppose I should see writing as some sort of holier-than-thou artistic endeavor; one that frees the soul and opens the imagination and lifts spirits and blah … blah … blah. Truth be told, I love to write for a very simple reason: I dig expressing myself, and allowing others to express themselves through my words. I don’t need to delude myself with flowery bullshit. Whether I write another paragraph or not (Hell, whether Jhumpa Lahiri or Tim O’Brien or Steve Rushin or Jason Sean Garber write another paragraph), the world will go on; the sun will rise; the sun will set. Yes, words can exude an unparalleled power; they can uprise; sedate; inspire; anger. But men like my former classmate confuse message with messenger. If the message is powerful enough, it matters little whether it is delivered by Hemingway or Gary Galvao, the guy who recently dug up my basement. What matters most is who’s listening.