Winning/Losing

I finished off a busy week by running in the Frank Lloyd Wright 10k in my hometown of Oak Park. It’s a sentimental race, because four years ago, I was sitting on my porch and watched it go by, and said to myself, “Hey, maybe I should try running seriously again…” The next year, I ran it. The year after that, I ran the Chicago Marathon. Three marathons later, I’m something of an addict.

My goal was to break 40 minutes, something I’ve never done. Last time, in the spring, I finished a 10K in 40:06. Augh, as Charlie Brown would say. This time, I crossed the six mile mark with about 1:30 to spare… if I sprinted, ignored the pain in my legs and lungs, I might have gotten it… but I did not, and loped in at 40:22.

It occurs to me that that moment, right there, is what separates the excellent from the merely good, the men from the boys (sorry, girls), the winners and losers. Winners — at least in athletics — expect to win, every time, and will do anything to do so. The others — well, we are prepared for other outcomes.

Which thoughts were inspired by this column in the NY Times today. Obviously, the Red Sox haven’t been underdogs for a while, and there’s been a lot of chat about how the BoSox are now the Yankees. But that’s an argument based on payroll, and market dominance. This column talks about the fans, and how we could fall into the Yankee trap of demanding nothing but winning, all year, every year. Maybe I’m just trying to salve the wound of that :22, but right now I’m thinking that lowered expectations are just my height.

That said: GO BOSOX! WOO-HOO! WE’RE IN THE WORLD SERIES, BABY!

I mean, Dustin Pedroia would have sprinted till his legs came off.

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Hey! I have a website!

This has been a remarkable week. On Tuesday, my book was published. Also on Tuesday, I was interviewed on Fresh Air, a lifelong dream. (Some people dream of winning Academy Awards, some dream of fighting alongside Aragorn at the Battle of Helms Deep. Being interviewed by Terry Gross is about right in the middle of that spectrum.)

I had my first ever book reading and signing, and my first ever book party. And now, I have a blog. Truly: it is a rich and wonderful life I lead. Bookmark this page, if you’ve found yourself here, and check back frequently.

Many thanks to my friend Kevin Welsh and his colleagues at Antics Online for designing this website.

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My First Review (literary)

I spent the past two years or so, off and on, writing a book, and all during that process, I was almost paralyzed by fear of what the reviews would look like. I imagined things like, “How DARE Peter Sagal foist this steaming pile of XXX on the public…” well, you get the idea. I am told that this is not unusual among writers.

Well, I am now looking at the first review, from Publisher’s Weekly, and it’s not bad. It’s actually kind of, well, good. I’m not sure how to deal with that. I’m not equipped, really, for praise. “The Book of Vice” goes on sale on Oct. 16th.

From Publishers Weekly
NPR host Sagal (Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me) offers a hilarious, harmlessly prurient look at the banality of regular people’s strange and wicked pleasures. In the wake of the late-1990s obsession with other people’s fun, notes Sagal, the hoi polloi have pursued their own indulgences, such as sex joints, swinging couples’ clubs, gambling and pornography. He describes the three necessary elements of vice that distinguish it from sin and give it that irresistible frisson: social disapprobation, actual pleasure and shame. A buttoned-up journalist and family man, Sagal visits the respective dens of inequity, interviewing the principals in the name of research while preserving his academic irony, e.g., during the shooting of a hardcore porn sequence for Spice TV, he remarks of the actors: I began to appreciate how very well Evan and Kelly did their work. Indeed, the dedicated hedonists, such as the regular joe habitu├ęs of San Francisco’s Power Exchange or the normal-seeming couples who frequent the Swinger’s Shack, face the same problems of meeting supplies, logistics, expense versus income, and time management as does any warehouse foreman. Sagal is a terrific, lively writer, and while some of his segments are repetitive and stretched, he is admirable in humanizing the participants. (Oct.)

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Surely, You Are Mistaken

I am an enthusiast of a very narrow genre of literature: the Aggrieved Author Letter to the NYTimes Sunday Book Review. There’s at least one every week… despite the fact that it’s a mug’s game. Unless you can point out some gross factual error, or can prove there was a terrible conflict of interest on the reviewer’s part — e.g., you slept with his wife — it’s just going to make you look petty and petulant. For example, see here.

I have already written my AALthNYTSBR, even though my book hasn’t come out yet and may not actually be reviewed by anyone, let alone the NYTimes. Nonetheless, it’s ready to go:

To the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

I very much much appreciate your review of my book, “The Book of Vice: Naughty Things and How To Do Them.” (Harper Collins.) However, I must point out an error. Your reviewer says the book is bad. In fact, it is good.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Sagal

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