On the one hand, puzzles are great because they’re fun. But really we are drawn to puzzles because they can be solved.
The Paris Review
“One time, while I was writing, I happened to sniff my armpits absentmindedly. Several people saw me do it, and thought it was funny—and ever after that I was given the name ‘Snarf.’ In the annual for my graduating class, the class of 1940, I’m listed as ‘Kurt Snarfield Vonnegut, Jr.’ Technically, I wasn’t really a snarf. A snarf was a person who went around sniffing girls’ bicycle saddles. I didn’t do that. ‘Twerp’ also had a very specific meaning, which few people know now. Through careless usage, ‘twerp’ is a pretty formless insult now.
“There are people who think publishing in The New Yorker is selling out… there are people who think I’m a narcissist for refusing to affect false modesty. Fuck ’em.”
In this interview, I say things about adolescent males, not going to weddings, John Jeremiah Sullivan, homeless people, being published in The New Yorker, writing stuff, the Beatles, Sean Cassidy, Mexico, Robert Lowell, the self, Inspector Clouseau, & other shit.
Spencer Hendrixson interviews Spencer Hendrixson about “Swing/The burning of the bat” (the photo accompanying Jacob Euteneuer’s “After the At Bat” on Hobart today)
Spencer Hendrixson: What inspired this shot?
Spencer Hendrixson: When I was in the Scouts, we went camping each summer at Owasippe. One of my favorite memories was playing ball in this clearing next to our campsite. We used someone’s strung hammock and firewood as bases. Well, one time one of the kids cracked our Scout Master’s bat. He gave the kid a lot shit about it: how it was the first bat he hit a home run with, and how he’d pass it down to his kids, which was horseshit. He was most of my troop’s baseball coach, so his kids got to play and pitch the most. His middle boy, who was my age, was wild and would beam batters in the head and then cry about it. Anyway, that night, our Scout Master placed the bat in our campfire. The bat took hours to burn and it was one of the only nights we didn’t bust each others’ balls or play capture the flag.
SH: What does this have to do with the photo?
SH: Let me explain. When I was taking my first writing workshop class, I got to read Stu Dybek’s “Death of the Right Fielder.” The solemn beauty of that story was something I wanted to imitate. When I began writing stories, I kept coming back to the image of the bat burning. In Dybek’s story, the narrator realizes most kids are washed up before they even go pro. I wanted the actual burning of the bat, or more accurately the cracking of the bat, to symbolize that. So, I wrote a short story about it, but ended the story with my troop waking up the next morning and using the ashes of the bat as eye black (and being a naïve 20 year old writer, I added a line about the troop wearing the ashes of the bat as eye black to their graves.)
SH: Seriously, what the fuck does that have to do with the photo?
SH: Well a couple of summers ago, my high school catcher and best bud, Max, and I were throwing bp to each other when he happened to crack my bat. So I had a bat to burn. I thought about directly recreating the shot, but the reality of finding a campsite and a troop to watch a bat burn didn’t seem a reality. I thought of iconic baseball images I’d seen, and most involved a batter mid-swing. I always loved overhead shots; they capture the flow of the swing crossing the plate, but also the lovely, understated follow through. And why not add fire? By chance, Max’s father’s is a retired photographer for the city of Chicago, and was able to provide the necessary tripod to capture the shots.
SH: What kind of bat was it?
SH: It was a Red 34 oz. 31 in. Louisville Slugger.
SH: Yes, red. I played ball instead of working in high school, and that was the cheapest bat I could get with saved birthday money.
SH: Whose swing are you imitating?
SH: I wish I was imitating Troy Glaus’. You could take his swing out to a nice French restaurant and rub your foot up her thigh; it was a pure beauty. As a kid my swing was ever-changing: from Craig Biggio’s to Junior’s (or as close as I could get). In high school, I imitated Konerko’s (mainly the batting glove adjustments and home plate tapping mannerisms.) There was a little Pujols in there too. But, in this shot, it’s a generic swing, because the bat was on fire and I feared burning my face off. I also have another shot of me holding the bat like Jim Thome while grabbing my nuts.
SH: Who are your favorite photographers?
SH: Jeff Wall is great. He stages some of his shots, such as the opening scene of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. Eric Hulobow goes around the country shooting abandoned buildings. But, I’d really love to be the baseball version of Vivian Maier.
SH: How so?
SH: Well, she was this nanny in the 50s and 60s who took like 100,000 shots in Chicago. Sometimes the subject is candid, and many times they look to be in pain, desperate. I remember reading this article about Ron Kittle swinging for the fences every time, even though he had a broken down back. I wish I could have got a shot of him really in pain, but while making contact. I could say the same about Konerko. He always seems to be playing with a busted thumb or whatnot. Paulie got beamed in the eye by Carl Pavano and the next at bat hit a home run off him. Paulie is the king.
SH: So what are you working on next?
SH: I’d actually like a life size blow up of Konerko after he got beamed by Pavano. Then I’d like to fill in all that black and blue around his eye with other pics of him playing hurt (so pretty much an entire season). I’d also like to create some Tony Fitzpatrick bootlegs. He has one about Joe Crede, with the lines “Joe Crede: As steady as rain in October…line drives find him like autumn bullets, bad back be damned… Joe is this city rounding third, going home.” There is something about White Sox players in pain and playing through it, pretty damn well, which needs to be shown through art. Cubs fans wouldn’t know anything about this (playing through pain and doing it well). I could create so much art about that ’05 team. I also love Roberto Clemente. The amazing, charitable things he did off the field, and he was a poet! There should me shrines for him in each stadium.
SH: Is there anything else you’d like to say.
SH: Pale Hose forever.