A late writer’s stories about life, childhood, and racism.
Back in the dinosaur days of publishing, before computers and the Internet, a fledgling writer getting a story published was akin to jumping into a pool of piranhas: he closed his eyes and took the plunge, hoping that his work would live on. So it was with Meyer, who during his lifetime was never quite able to crack the magician’s code of consistent publication. Now his son, Christopher, has gathered 12 of his father’s stories and self-published them. The stories vary in length from one to several pages. Some are written from a child’s perspective, such as “Memorial Day”; others, such as “A Cheap Substitute,” apparently contain autobiographical elements. Baseball is the subject of several pieces, as well. Running through many of the tales is a theme of racism and its insidious, casual presence in everyday life, as in “The Man Baseball Almost Left Behind,” which on the surface is a by-the-numbers interview with former ballplayer Enos “Country” Slaughter but is actually about Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color line. Another story dealing with racism and baseball is “Before the Asphalt Cooled,” which again uses Robinson as the story’s catalyst. Meyer is a good, descriptive writer: “Aunt Maude’s powdered white cheek looked like pie dough.” Overall, there’s nothing wrong with any of these stories, as they’re all interesting, but perhaps the best way to describe them is workmanlike; they lack that certain something, that certain spark, that makes a story leap off the page and insist on publication. Today, the stories might move to the front of the pack, but when publishing was far more competitive, space was limited, and good stories were routinely bumped for great ones; these stories likely just failed to make the cut.
Tales that smolder but never quite ignite.