At dawn on May 1st, lily of the valley day, under gray clouds, I learned of the death of Paul Auster. At the same time, I learned that he had been suffering from lung cancer for eighteen months and that immunotherapy had not worked miracles. I had good reason to remember that he was born in February 1947; I had just as good reason to remember that, in his film Smoke, his double recounted that Sir William Raleigh had introduced tobacco to the court of Queen Elizabeth and that, to amuse her, he intended to calculate the weight of smoke.

Auster readily recounted this original anecdote: at eight years old, leaving the Polo Grounds, after a match between the New York Giants and the Milwaukee Braves, he had dared to ask for an autograph from his hero, Willie Mays, the outfielder with black and orange cap, the best player in major league baseball. “Of course son!” do you have a pencil? “. Due to lack of pencil, Paul Auster did not collect the autograph; we can guess his pain, we can understand that, subsequently, he always had a pencil in his pocket and we want to believe that his vocation as a writer was born from it.

Letters of nobility

Baseball has its letters of nobility in American literature. The most beautiful go to Kerouac, the game, and Roth, the book. They always refer to childhood, to essential emotions, to the dilation of time, to the beauty of a stadium, “a corner of green pasture miraculously walled in the middle of the factories”, to the magic of the ball, to its trajectories and its 108 seams of red waxed thread. The imprint and ongoing relevance of baseball runs through Auster’s books as they form a backdrop for Smoke.

The imprint and permanent relevance of baseball run through Auster’s books

In this national passion, everyone has a say. Stephen Jay Gould, the paleontologist, keen on the infinite genius of statistics which hovers over the kingdom of baseball, was able to name off the top of his head the name of the player who obtained the best batting coefficient over a season (it was Napoléon Lajoie in 1901) before asserting, moreover, that the disappearance of dinosaurs cannot be explained by a cloud of dust due to the fall of an asteroid or to chain volcanic eruptions but by the heating of their testicles which would have rendered sterile.

2024-05-19 10:01:06
#weight #smoke


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