Writing by Lawrence Shainberg
Please click on the titles to link to the writings.
“I met Beckett in 1981, when I sent him, with no introduction, a book I’d written, and to my astonishment he read the book and replied almost at once. Six weeks later, his note having emboldened me to seek a meeting, our paths crossed in London, and he invited me to sit in on the rehearsals of Endgame which he was then conducting with a group of American actors for a Dublin opening in May.”
NO ONE KNOWS WHEN IT FIRST CAME TO BE called ''the zone,'' but if you want an example of the lofty, almost mystical state to which sport, at times, can grant one entry, you couldn't do better than this one, recalled by the great Brazilian genius of soccer, Pele, in his book, written with Robert L. Fish, ''My Life and the Beautiful Game.''
"Mine arrives two weeks after my brother, four years older, leaves for boarding school. I’m 12 years old, alone in the house with my parents for the first time in my life. Nowhere to go when they fight with each other or me, nowhere to hide when my father, reading constantly in a desperate attempt to make up for the fact that he never finished high school, criticizes my reading and study habits."
TWO YEARS AGO, while researching an article on sports, I came upon a conundrum that resisted any attempt to confine it to the language of the conventional sports page. It concerns a cherished gospel of the playing field that athletes and their fans call the "Hot Hand." Heat in this case refers to transcendence, an inexplicable escalation of energy and skill. A golfer with a Hot Hand will send his drives twenty or thirty yards beyond his ordinary range; an archer will see her arrows graze each other as they strike the bull's eye; a basketball player will hit a string of shots so acrobatic and indifferent to defense that he seems linked by invisible channels to the basket. Subjective accounts of these experiences, which athletes sometimes call "playing in the zone," include perceptual changes, euphoric sensations, and other alterations of consciousness, and their reality is so universally accepted that they commonly dictate strategy. In baseball, every pitcher in the league knows which hitters, bringing streaks to town, are not to be offered hittable pitches, and when a basketball player gets "hot," his teammates pass up open shots to get him the ball.
[Norman Mailer] likes to say that all novelists are actors at heart. Over the years, it's been a useful metaphor . . . a reference to the voices and identities he explores at his desk, but tonight he's pushing it into reality. He's an actor unqualified and the role he plays is Hemingway, the writer whose voice he sought to emulate when he discovered it more than sixty years ago, the writer whose suicide some forty years ago, made him realize, as if for the first time, the immeasurable risk of the profession he had chosen.
Of all the runners in this year's New York City Marathon, the most unusual, by any estimate, will be among the group that calls itself "The Robert Wilson Brigade." Named after the esteemed dramatist (Einstein on the Beach, The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud, et cetera), who is known among other things for his interest in "slow motion" and his use of tedium as a dramatic device, the Wilson Brigade is a group of runners who value slowness rather than speed. Like others in the race, they will measure their accomplishment by the time they take to finish, but these iconoclasts, recognizable by their electric-blue T-shirts with the turtle on the chest, will be the only participants for whom more is less and less more. A Wilsoner who runs the 26.2-mile distance in less than seven hours will be automatically suspended from the group. Several among their ranks point with pride to ten-hour marathons, and one claims to have used twelve hours, twenty-five minutes, forty-three seconds to complete the Boston Marathon last April.