64 Squares

I’ve been wanting to do this since the inception of the site. I thought a book review would be a fresh angle for a contemporaneous song blog. Only problem, all the books I’ve been reading were of a number of years old and, therefore, not particularly timely for doing a relevant blog. Brian Greene’s, Elegant Universe. The late David Foster Wallace’s, Infinite Jest. The autobiography of Nelson Mandela. All great reads but not very current.

I economically applied the gift card, generously gifted to me by the parents of the girls’ soccer team I coached; four groupons; a loose Chuck E. Cheese token, and a vintage Garbage Pail Kids card (ADAM bomb, no less) to purchase a slew of books I had been eyeing: Too Big To Fail, Moral Landscape, Endgame, and the LEGO Collection, Guggenheim Museum, a Frank Lloyd Wright replica. I may have also gotten the Michael BublĂ© Christmas record but that’s a fairly unofficial part of the purchase, so you are not permitted to draw any conclusions from its hypothetical presence in my car stereo about my masculinity.

Endgame is the most recent biography of Bobby Fischer, written by a man who knew Bobby from childhood and who is largely regarded as his preeminent historian, Frank Brady. The book was published February 1 of this year and is still in hardback, so it seemed that it might qualify as sufficiently recent for review.

Wu-Tang made chess in rap fresh, first. So, this is far from groundbreaking.

If you don’t know, Bobby Fischer was the greatest American chess player. He was the first significant child prodigy and rose to the highest stratums of fame. I suspected that his legend was something of a typical American aggrandizement. Like saying, Landon Donovan is the best soccer player in the country. On a relative basis, it’s just not saying much. The Russians have dominated the game for the entire century. But, this book, if nothing else, emphasizes the near mythological station Bobby Fischer held throughout the world in the imagination of chess enthusiasts and masters everywhere, not just here. Fischer spent the first part of his life offending with youthful rudeness and the latter with hateful bigotry of the most abased kind. Nevertheless, he was championed and hosted and rescued and sheltered and lauded and protected and desired to his very last breath by people all over the world. After he won the World Championship in 1972 (the only American to ever do so), from Russian and lifelong friend Boris Spassky, he essentially disappeared and spurned countless and preposterously lucrative requests to play again. Notwithstanding, his presence and peculiar genius were chased by the public his entire life.

Chess has occupied a prominent place with my family over the last few years. The Bobby Fischer story touches me deeply for some reason. For it’s peculiar patriotism and underdog elements and most of all for its picture of such an acute talent. The robbery that was Fischer’s decision to essentially never play again and then to turn into a hate monger against Jews and this country is a tragedy that is hard for me to accept.

We love for greatness to be great. Or, at least I do. We excuse so much for the glimpse of a Tiger Woods’ 45 footer or a Mike Tyson hook or a Michael Vick scramble. It is a hard thing to accept when that sort of athletic or other genius is taken, or rendered incapable of performance, prematurely. Even when they are crooks or bigots or rapists or gamblers or philanderers.

But, world class a-holes don’t have the market cornered on lost talent. The Fugees and Barry Sanders come to mind (I clearly have an expansive definition of “genius”). I can barely think about it. I suppose for the rest of us, possessing more modest talents, the idea that the “greatest of all time” — in anything — would just cease to exercise the talent, is a pill too bitter. For all that he was, what Fischer might have been is what remains most haunting of all.

On word of his death, Spassky, Fischer’s long rival, said, “My friend is dead.” In fact, Fischer died with many friends in spite of doing all he could to be an enemy of all. He died at 64

Endgame can be purchased here.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

Over the Board

2 thoughts on “64 Squares

  1. yeah, i’m pretty excited about the book review in song idea too. would like to do it again. glad you liked it, man.

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