Taking seriously the idea that baseball is a study in failure—a very successful batter manages a base hit in just three of every ten attempts—Mark Kingwell argues that there is no better tutor of human failure’s enduring significance than this strange, crooked game of base, where geometry becomes poetry.
Weaving elements of memoir, philosophical reflection, sports writing, and humour, Fail Better is an intellectual love letter to baseball by one of North America’s most engaging philosophers. Kingwell illustrates complex concepts like theoretically infinite game-space, “time out of time,” and the rules of civility with accessible examples drawn from the game, its history, and his own halting efforts to hit ‘em where they ain’t. Beyond a “Beckett meets baseball” study in failure, Kingwell crafts a thoughtful appreciation of why sports matter, and how they change our vision of the world.
Never pretentious, always entertaining, Fail Better is set to be the homerun non-fiction title of the season.
PRAISE FOR MARK KINGWELL
“Fail Better… is a ballpark ramble of memoir, lore and nostalgia. Its north star is baseball’s time-out-of-timelessness, its leisurely Zen gaps between actions.” —New York Times
“In this collection of previously published pieces and new essays, pitchers and catchers mingle with musicians and philosophers, and Kingwell mixes his thoughts about baseball with numerous other topics, including colonialism, justice, and The Simpsons.”—Publishers Weekly
“Mark Kingwell… has written a delightful book about baseball that combines metaphysics, personal memoir and anecdotes, literary references, and a limitless appreciation for a pastime that has brightened his life… [His] insights ring true.” —New York Journal of Books
“Kingwell is dauntingly well-read… a gifted notice… a lively writer [who] cites The Simpsons as often as Immanuel Kant. [Readers] are rewarded with neat, unexpected insights.” —The Globe & Mail
“Philosophy, literature, politics – Mark Kingwell always finds a way to combine any of these with pop-cultural commentary. This time out it’s baseball that gets the Kingwell treatment…Chapter titles like Beauty, Score, Pebble(?!) give you a sense of its range, but while philosophy figures prominently here, any baseball fan will feel the love.”—Now Magazine
“Reading Fail Better is not unlike the satisfying experience of watching a lazy baseball game on a summer afternoon. Lounging in the bleachers with friends, you easily and happily spend a few hours shooting the shit, oneupping each other with stats or trivia, occasionally stumbling on actual insights, and enjoying it all the while. In this sense, Kingwell makes for an excellent companion. As with the famously unhurried game of baseball, you sit back, settle in… wait patiently for an outbreak of beauty and wonder, and are reliably rewarded.” —Literary Review of Canada
“In his usual chatty and discursive voice, Kingwell incorporates his lifelong love of the game with notions of contingency—thoughts on how to live a beautiful life within the context of his own inabilities on the diamond.” —Maclean’s
“The book works by accumulation and digression. It meanders through a series of ruminations prompted by baseball lore and Kingwell’s own personal reminiscences to draw out some serious philosophical distinctions that apply not only to baseball, but to everyday life.”—Winnipeg Free Press
“Fail Better is baseball considered personally, historically, poetically, formally, legally, critically, politically, linguistically, ethically, geographically, metaphysically, nostalgically, morally and aesthetically. Like the game itself, it’s fascinating all the way through. ”—Stephen Marche
“For those of us who believe baseball matters, Kingwell’s attempt to explain why is worthwhile reading.”—The Gazette
“[Kingwell] has grown into a pretty clever jack-of-almost-everything…”—National Post