A Fan’s Notes

It’s always frustrating to lead with someone else’s words, but a few years ago Walter Kirn said it best. Of Frederick Exley, author of one of the most blazingly depressing and hilarious minor American masterpieces, Kirn wrote: “Like Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf or anything by Antonin Artaud, Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes is one of those books that gets pushed on you by crazy people.”

Kirn means that in a global sense – folks that are chock full o’ nuts – but I tend to think that people just go into full-on, hyperventilated Exely adoration. Exelytasy, or something, which must remain confined to A Fan’s Notes. Ex’s two other attempts are utter humiliations. But A Fan’s Notes?  That book is divine. I’ve never tried to write anything about it because it’s the kind of thing you want to keep to yourself. What’s it about? Among other things – alcoholism, thwarted ambition, shock therapy, writing, sex – it’s about Frank Gifford and The New York Football Giants, and it is one of the best non-sports sports books ever written.

So as we enter the final countdown to the Giants v Patriots (yes, I’m sorry, this is a Super Bowl post), let’s listen to Ex as he dilates on his adoration for the Giants, and football in general.

Why did football bring me so to life? I can’t say precisely. Part of it was my feeling that football was an island of directness in a world of circumspection. In football a man was asked to do a difficult and brutal job, and he either did it or got out. There was nothing rhetorical or vague about it; I choose to believe that it was not unlike the jobs which all men, in some sunnier past, had been called upon to do. It smacked of something old, something traditional, something unclouded by legerdemain and subterfuge. It had that kind of power over me, drawing me back with the force of something known, scarcely remembered, elusive as integrity – perhaps it was no more than a force of a forgotten childhood. Whatever it was, I gave myself up to the Giant’s utterly. The recompense I gained was the feeling of being alive. – Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes

Patriots Suck!


One Response to A Fan’s Notes

  1. Tim Lacy says:

    My vote is for escapism. Football lets us escape the real world. One’s real world might consist of too much indirectness, as Exley notes above. But we know that very direct people are also fans. So, from what is football helping direct people escape? Morality? Repressive conformist society? Sobriety? …I give myself to the Chiefs and Bears for whatever it is from which I seek escape. I think the things that require my escape vary by the week. – TL

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