A+ Ideas in a D- Wrapper

Two friends, knowing my love of baseball, sent me the very same recent essay A Perfect Game by David B. Hart, in which the author finds in the game of baseball a sublime reflection of the ideal unmatched by any other sport. They knew that my heart would resonate with such a thesis.

Ever since being soundly defeated by a friend in a public debate in which the proposition was ‘baseball is a game superior to football’ I have looked for ammunition to buttress what was even then a sound, but poorly presented, argument. I looked forward to reading the essay with enjoyment.

If only I could understand what he says.

I think I’m smart enough, and though my education is spotty at best I should be able to understand and enjoy an essay on baseball, even if that essay is wed to Greek philosophical reflections. But this essay felt all wrong.

I know that if a man looks at the Mona Lisa and finds it uninteresting, the problem is not with Leonardo or with his painting, but with the looker. I’m willing to accept that the problem here may be me. But maybe, just maybe, the problem is poor writing? I wonder.

Reading Amazon.com reviews of John Coltrane’s magnum opus “A Love Supreme” the other day I found a guy who honestly admitted to not liking and not ‘getting’ this piece which, he said, was unlistenable. But in making his case, he exposed his flank by saying, “I have built a small but quality jazz library the last few months.”

Oops. A few months of song collecting does not make one a jazz critic.

So, similarly, I admit the problem could be me. But I have been reading for some time, and so I hesitate to say this, as an unpublished nobody, that just perhaps the author is just a deep thinker who is a poor writer. In suggesting this to one of my friends, he said that the author IS a very smart man. I said he needed a good editor.

And there the argument rests.

Is there a way of judging style? Are there credible standards by which I could justly award this man a D- without being laughed out of the academy?