Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Reveries Unlimited: The Razor’s Edge Stories of Karl Jirgens

Porcupine’s Quill Press, 2022.

"There is something missing . . . if I knew what it is then it wouldn't be so missing . . . " – Hans in The Recognitions by William Gaddis (1955).

No, Reveries Unlimited is not the corporate name of a company specializing in providing services related to waking dreams, dreams we have with our eyes wide open while engaging in psychological wanderings. I’ve coined this hopefully supple phrase to encapsulate the kind of author who prompts, encourages, inspires and otherwise seduces us into sharing his or her narrative roamings through a past, present and future which collide, intersecting gently in a series of gently linked stories. Such is the service provided by Karl Jirgens in the recent collection called The Razor’s Edge, from Porcupine’s Quill Press, which subtly touches upon Maugham’s classic tale of a search for the meaning of life, in which we often feel as if we were walking on that precarious edge, posed between transcendence and a fall into oblivion.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Air: The Spirit That Moves a Business

Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) gives Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) and Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) a first look at the Air Jordan, in Air. (Photo: Ana Carballosa)

Ben Affleck’s roisterous comedy Air may be the most unconventional true-story sports movie ever made with the exception of Ron Shelton’s Cobb. (And Cobb is a masterpiece that transcends its genre.) Air’s focus isn’t exactly on a sport or a heroic player, but on the birth of a business decision and a company’s effort to turn it into reality. Moneyball veered off the genre’s beaten path by choosing a protagonist, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who made baseball history not by harnessing the spirit of a downtrodden team or devising a strategy to turn them into triumphant players but by choosing his recruits through computer-generated analysis. Its twenty-first century brand of pragmatism – the fact that it celebrated virtues that have nothing to do with the romantic vision baseball lovers cling to of their favorite sport – gave Moneyball a new kind of sharp edge. But the protagonist of Air, set in 1984, isn’t a professional athlete or someone whose job it is to make champions. It’s a businessman, Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon), who works as a talent scout for Nike, unearthing young players on the hopeful cusp of basketball careers whose endorsement of the company’s basketball sneakers might make it competitive with Converse – whose shoes carry the imprimatur of Magic Johnson and Larry Byrd – and Adidas. (Nike’s runaway success in selling sneakers has markedly failed to extend to the basketball market.) Air is about Vaccaro’s courtship, over the reluctance of the company’s CEO, Phil Knight (Affleck), of eighteen-year-old Michael Jordan and the creation of the Air Jordan.