Book Reports / Toward A More Worldly World Series: Reading Game Three Of The 1998 American League Championship And David Wong Louie'S &Quot;Warming Trends&Quot;

Toward A More Worldly World Series: Reading Game Three Of The 1998 American League Championship And David Wong Louie'S &Quot;Warming Trends&Quot;

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Autor:  anton  15 March 2011
Tags:  Toward,  Worldly,  Series,  Reading
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Toward a Worldly World Series

At this point, I wish to turn to an exploration of "Warming Trends" in relation to the changing significance of baseball to show how changes in the perception of America and Chinese Americans can change the way Chinese American texts are received. Like the allegorical significance of the battle between the Yankees and the Indians, Louie's use of baseball as a signifier of Americanness is highly dependent on our perceptions of baseball. Likewise, it is dependent on our perceptions of Asian Americans. For baseball to work as a marker of Americanness, it cannot be seen as Asian. Once baseball is perceived as belonging equally to Asia as it does to America, Louie's story cannot be read in the same way. I am not arguing here that Louie's story is somehow deficient or "time-bound." I regard Pangs of Love, and "Warming Trends" in particular, as deftly-written, engaging literature. What I mean to suggest is that as the meaning of the terms "Asian American" or "Chinese American" changes for Americans, the reading and production of Chinese American literature will change. Maxine Hong Kingston seemed to have these kinds of changes in mind when in 1982 she wrote, "I'm certain that some day when a great body of Chinese American writing becomes published and known, then readers will no longer have to put such a burden on each book that comes out. Readers can see the variety of ways for Chinese Americans to be" (63). Likewise, as a greater number of Asian Americans are seen in a wider spectrum of American life, and when Asian American heroes emerge that both Asian American children and young people of all races can look up to and idolize, then it is inevitable that perceptions of Asian American literature will change.

But surely, we might counter, baseball, that great American pastime, will never be perceived as anything other than quintessentially American. My experience with the ESPN telecast introduced earlier suggests otherwise. The ESPN telecast was not an "American event" beamed wholesale into our Asia-Pacific living rooms. Asia was made to be a part of the event. I first recognized this when one of the announcers said, "It's Friday night here in Cleveland, Saturday morning for those of you in the East." This, and many other comments, were directed toward us in Asia. After one announcer produced a series of complicated statistics, the other said, "translate that into Mandarin," which, while perhaps poking fun at a language they do not understand, did at least reveal their awareness that the work of announcers in Asian languages was corresponding with their own commentary. One of these Asian announcers became the topic of conversation when the ESPN announcers publicized an upcoming series of telecasts from Taiwan. The announcers talked about getting to hear from their "good friend" Doug Yuen, whom they called "the voice of baseball in Taiwan." Another series of games, the Japan Tour, played between American major leaguers and Japanese teams, was also publicized.

It could be argued that the inclusion of Asia in the ESPN telecast is more an indicator of Cable-TV marketing trends, or more sinisterly, American cultural hegemony, than it is of the changing status of baseball as the American game. However, the organization of a Japan Tour by American baseball clubs in cooperation with Japanese clubs suggests an increasing globalization in baseball itself. Back when Hank cheered for the Yankees, the idea of big American boys playing against Japanese teams would have been humorous to many Americans. But today there is an increasing integration of American baseball with Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean baseball. This is indicated in a 1994 article in Transpacific magazine profiling South Korean Chan Ho Park and Japan's Makoto Suzuki, who signed contracts amounting to $1.2 million and $750,000 respectively with American major league clubs:

For years American baseball players either past their prime or on the fringe have packed their equipment bags and taken their waning skills to Japan. With few exceptions...the migration of professional ballplayers has been exclusively West to East. That trend is on the verge of collapse, however. (Tuber and Barnes 32)

Although still a distinct minority in major league baseball, Asian-born players are making an impact, especially in the area of pitching. One outstanding example is Hideo Nomo,(n6) who was named the National League "Rookie of the Year" in 1995 for his distinction as the league's strike out leader.

Today, therefore, we can see that baseball is beginning to look more worldly, a point driven home to me somewhere around the fourth or fifth inning of the game on ESPN. The Yankees' pitcher gave up a few more homeruns, and, as any baseball fan could guess, the next image on the screen was the activity in the bullpen. What was surprising was to see that the big, tall pitcher (a man of six foot four inches and two hundred and forty pounds) in the Yankee uniform getting ready to assume the mound was Hideki Irabu, a player acquired by the Yankees from Chiba, Japan.

It is not beyond comprehension, I hope to have shown through this analysis, that one day the image of a Japanese pitcher warming up in the Yankees bullpen will not be a surprise. There will come a day, I believe, when the American World Series will be a worldly World Series and the way we perceive baseball, America, Asian Americans, and Asian American literature will be significantly altered.

(n1) On that particular day, the Indians routed the Yankees. However, although it does not in any way weaken my thesis, I should note here that the Yankees defeated the Indians in the contest for the American League title and went on to win the World Series, beating the San Diego Padres in four straight games.

(n2) It may be argued that the use of the name "Indians" by an American baseball team is itself an act of racism. Baseball fans will remember the protests from the Native American community during the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves. Sharp criticism was leveled against the Braves' organization and fans for "belittling" Native Americans by reducing them to a mascot. Moreover, exception was taken with the Atlanta fans' shaking of tomahawks to the beat of pom-pom drums because of its connotations of bloodthirsty savages. However, the ESPN announcer in the Indians/Yankees game revealed that the Cleveland Indians were named after a man named Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American to play major league baseball. According to the club's official website (indians.com), Sockalexis (1871-1913) was a popular player on the Cleveland club who was a Penobscot Indian from Old Town, Maine. After his retirement, a fan suggested in a 1914 newspaper contest to re-name the club that the team be called the Indians "as a testimony to the game's first American Indian player." The history of the club's name, therefore, reveals that "Indians" was not chosen due to racism, but due to respect for a member of the Native American community.

(n3) Some clue to the development of this ethnic ambiguity was given by Louie in an interview with Time in 1991 (Simpson 66). In short, Louie intentionally erased ethnicity from his stories after collecting rejection notices in the "mid-1970s" because he believed they would be more marketable that way. Possibly reflecting the attitude of editors who rejected Louie's early work, the radio show producer in the short story "Birthday" informs Wallace that his story is "too complex" and advises him to "simplify it": "He advised me that if I wanted the listeners' sympathy I should consider dropping the 'Chinese stuff.'" (9). Clearly, by the time Pangs of Love was published in 1991, Louie's perception of readers--or perhaps editors' perceptions of readers--had changed; indeed, "Displacement," his story about a Chinese immigrant couple adjusting to life in America, was published in The Best American Short Stories 1989, the year before Amy Tan achieved international fame with her first novel. As "Warming Trends" was first published in Kansas Quarterly in 1986, it is possible that Louie was still "dropping the Chinese stuff" in order to sell his stories. The origin of the ethnic ambiguity in "Warming Trends" is interesting from a reception perspective because it illustrates a dialectic between the assumptions of authors about editors and of editors about readers that influences the ways stories are presented. However, in terms of my analysis, the effect of the ethnic ambiguity on the reading experience does not rely on the intentions of authors and editors.

(n4) Besides parenting style, numerous examples of Hank's characterization suggest that he is not a Chinese American, or at least not according to common stereotypes. Indulging in beer and cigarettes is by no means uncharacteristic of Asians, but "Lone Star" and "Tareyton" are brands we might associate with working class white Americans in that they are regional brands that are not prominent in the global marketplace (in contrast to, for example, Carlsberg and Marlboro). In fact, Marlboro is the brand smoked by Bilbo, the supporter of Third World nations (173,174).

(n5) Ricoeur sees meaning as neither a fixed identity in the text, nor as a projected prejudice of the reader. Rather, meaning is produced in an interaction between the text and the reader. In other words, it is projected in front of the text rather than found within the layers of the text or in the psyche of the reader.

(n6) Hideo Nomo was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995, traded to the New York Mets in 1998 and acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999.

REFERENCES

ESPN telecast, American League Championships Game 3, Oct 9, 1998

http://www.maiorleague.com//u/baseball/mlb/players/player%5f7930.htm < http://indians.com>

Jauss, Hans Robert. Toward an Aesthetic of Reception. Trans. by Timothy Bahti. Sussex: Harvester Press, 1982.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. "Cultural Mis-readings by American Reviewers." Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities. Ed. Guy Amirthanayagam. London: Macmillan, 1982. 55-65.

Louie, David Wong. Pangs of Love. 1991. New York: Plume, 1992.

Ricoeur, Paul. Hermeneutics & the Human Sciences. Ed. and trans. John B. Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981.

Simpson, Janice C. "Fresh Voices Above the Noisy Din." Time. 3 Jun. 1991.66+.

Tuber, Keith and Jill Barnes. "Flamethrowers from the Far East." Transpacific. June 1994, 32-37.

Valdes, Mario J. Phenomenological Hermeneutics and the Study of Literature. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1987.

~~~~~~~~

By Jeff Partridge

Jeff Partridge recently completed his PhD dissertation on the reception of Chinese American Literature, which included chapters on David Wong Louie, Shawn Wong and Gish Jen. He teaches in the Department of English Language and Literature at The National University of Singapore. His research interests include Asian American literature, ethnic studies, writing in electronic environments and theories of reception.

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Source: American Studies International, Jun2000, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p115, 11p

Item: 3641204



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