Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Great Literary History of...Hockey?


From a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books...

Faulkner never again wrote about hockey. As far as we know, he never attended another NHL contest. Still, "Innocent at Rinkside" resonated because, for so long, the literature of hockey was "oddly limited," as George Plimpton put it, "odd because its world [...] is rife with storytellers and legend-keepers, and because hockey has a long and absorbing history."

This was true in Canada, where the rink is sacred ground, as well as America. Indeed, while the likes of Ring Lardner, Jack London, A.J. Liebling, P.G. Wodehouse, Norman Mailer, Fred Exley, Bernard Malamud, W.C. Heinz, John McPhee, Dan Jenkins, Donald Hall, Philip Roth, David Halberstam, Willie Morris, and Plimpton himself (among many others) were creating a small, vital, sports-lit cannon that revolved about baseball, boxing, football, basketball, horse racing, golf, and the Olympics, there was no must-read hockey novel, no classic memoir, no go-to oral history. Only in the works of Mordecai Richler could readers catch glimpses of the ice. (Hollywood made one contribution: Slap Shot (1977), with an uproarious screenplay written by Nancy Dowd based on her younger brother's minor-league hockey experiences. The next year, Dowd won the Academy Award for Coming Home.)

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