Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Halberstam. and Updike. Williams. and Knight.

On the somber occasion of John Updike's passing, much has been made of his "lyric little" essay, 'Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."

An interesting sidelight, where Updike plays an 'off-screen' role, is David Halberstam's account of trying to obtain an appointment with Ted Williams in 1990:

My appointment with Mr. Theodore Williams of the Islamorda, Fla., Williams family had been agreed on well in advance, though we had not yet talked to each other. That is normal in matters of this gravity, and our earlier arrangements had been conducted through intermediaries.

My representative was Mr. Robert M. Knight of Bloomington, Ind., who in addition to being my occasional appointments secretary, is coach to the Indiana University basketball team. Mr. Knight, on occasion, has had troubles with members of the press himself, and was almost as celebrated as Mr. Williams in this regard.

It had taken no small amount of time to win over Mr. Knight's good opinion, for somewhat early in our relationship I had failed him on a serious literary point. Mr. Knight, unbeknown to many, is a literary man and I would not be amiss if I referred to him as a kind of literary executor for Mr. Williams. On that earlier occasion, he had quizzed me on my qualifications to write about Mr. Williams.

I had done reasonably well until the final question. Mr. Knight had asked to quote the best-known sentence of John Updike's famous New Yorker piece on Mr. Williams. I had not known, and Mr. Knight had, with no small measure of disdain, pointed out that it said, "Gods do not answer letters."

from Ted Williams: A Portrait in Words and Pictures.

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