Commentary

Sport Lit

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Posted on July 14th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Sports or sport?  The terms often have widely different connotations in regards to literature.  “Sports” intimates hokey, “we won the big game” barbeque-reminisces of glory days, weekend warriors, and empty idolizations of professional athletics.  “Sport” connotes more measured reflections and considerations: think Don DeLillo’s End Zone, August Wilson’s Fences, and the fiction of Jenifer Levin.  Often the best sport literature positions athletics as the nexus of relationships; boxing, fishing, and bullfighting are ripe metaphorical fodder in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun also Rises and James Dickey unpacks the imperfections of the outdoorsmen mentality in Deliverance.

Are the glory days of sport literature over?  Probably not, though the passing of George Plimpton—probably the most distinguished editor and writer to obsess over sport—might have lessened the connection between sport writing and “literary” merit.  Plimpton’s exploits are certainly legendary, and one can only hope for such pieces as Plimpton’s “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” from Sports Illustrated.  One of our remaining hopes from that era is Thomas McGuane, another former contributor to Sports Illustrated whose recent essay on hunting in The Wall Street Journal (“A Novelist Takes Aim”) hearkens to his lean earlier prose, that of the seminal novel The Sporting Club.

While literary magazines do publish individual pieces related to sport, and some magazines devote small-themed sections to such writing (The Southern Review’s recent baseball tribute, Hobart’s April baseball issue online), only a few magazines provide consistent attention toward writing about athletics. Check out the following journals publishing high quality literature in response to sport:

Aethlon: the Journal of Sport Literature

For over 25 years Aethlon has published original poetry, fiction, and non-fiction relating to sport, as well as critical and review essays about sport and sport literature; a publication of the Sport Literature Association.

Stymie Magazine

Founded in 2008 to publish golf-themed literature, Stymie Magazine now releases two issues a year of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction related to all forms of sport.

Sport Literate

“Honest reflections on life’s leisurely diversions” since 1995; funded by the Illinois Arts Council, the magazine primarily publishes non-fiction.

Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine

Published continuously since 1981; all forms of writing about baseball.

Elysian Fields Quarterly (on hiatus)

Published from 1981 to 1995 and 1998 to 2009, the magazine is on a “temporary sabbatical.”  Only published baseball-themed writing.