My favorite novel of all time, always will be, is Robert Coover’s “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh proprietor.” It was written in 1968 and I discovered the book a few years later. I was attracted to the book because J. Henry Waugh was my kind of guy. He lived in a small apartment over a bar where he met B-girls. But more importantly he invented a baseball game played with dice. He created fictitious players on fictitious teams, keeping detailed statistics. He took the game one step further by creating charts which determined not only the players ability on the field, but what happens in his life off the field, including death.
Waugh is an accountant, paying little attention to his job, preferring his baseball pennant race. I love this guy, because I play Strat-o-Matic baseball games and as kid I played Negamco and invented another baseball games using a deck of cards. And I also prefer to pay, like Bartelby, little or no attention to my job.
But something goes wrong in the baseball game that demoralizes Waugh. A rare dice and chart roll changes the game forever, as well as the characters he has created. The odds of it happening are off the charts, so to speak. And little by little the characters Waugh has created take center stage with a life of their own and Waugh completely disappears from the story.
Some critics have said the book is about creationism. If one sees the writer as a God I would agree. In the book Waugh is God who creates character/players whose failure, success, indeed their lives are represented by dice and charts, the two working together to determine the character’s fate. So why does Waugh disappear from the book? I believe it is because the writer wants his characters to live, to engage the reader, and the writer should be far in the background, invisible to the reader. J.D. Salinger would love J. Henry Waugh.
What writers can learn is to create characters that live and breath, are real and engaging in a story where emotions impact the reader. And of course, in playing God, to disappear from your creation, let your creation speak for you. Of course if you see J. Henry Waugh as Yahweh, a Hebrew word for The God, then write your own dissertation. Long live J. Henry, wherever you are.
My baseball e-book novel that I disappeared from: http://www.amazon.com/Loonies-Dugout-Terry-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00EEN7YNA/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393439117&sr=1-3