Twilight Innings by Robert A. Fink
The poet Robert A. Fink begins his first collection of personal essays as a bloody mess. Somewhere on the back roads of his beloved west Texan prairies, Fink’s marathon training is punctuated by a nasty fall. "I'm pathetic," he says. "I suddenly feel as if I'm in a commercial for incontinent older adults." Never mind that at 57, Fink’s 8-minute mile is still faster than most twenty-somethings’. His comic humility is what makes readers at home in Fink’s stories; we cozy up beside him in his favorite seat, four rows back from home plate, and enjoy the view. As one might suspect, Fink sometimes uses baseball as a unifying theme for his essays, but Twilight Innings is hardly an anthology of fresh-cut grass and blooper anecdotes. As the poet-professor slips back and forth between the pitcher’s mound and his university classroom, he also shares stories of suffering: a master sergeant trembles in a dark corner somewhere in Vietnam, two of his friends struggle with terminal cancer, 141 women jump from the 8th floor windows of a shirtwaist factory. There is a long winter of pain in Fink’s twenty-four essays, but they still manage to communicate hope and healing, preserving a sense of humor and hard-won wisdom.
Look for Robert Fink’s essay, “Pilgrims,” in the upcoming issue of Image, issue #53.
To buy Twilight Innings, click here.
that was from my blurb in imageupdate. if i had the space, energy, and creativity i would have also mentioned that fink's collection includes a telling story called "the schizophrenic creative writing teacher." the narrative describes fink's two-faced existence as an english prof: he is both drill sergeant and consoling counselor (a skill that he must pick up from his wife, who we later learn happens to be a "counselor of the year"). (incidentally, i question fink's use of schizophrenic. what he really means is multiple personality disorderish, but unfortunately, dictionaries still include "a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements." isn't that a little like saying gay to mean lame...errrr...that is, to mean bad?) but in my opinion, this essay is a microcosm of the entire collection. during the course of his personal essays, we also learn that fink is both sensitive poet and manly-man athlete. he volunteers for extra duty in vietnam and cowers during high school reunions. he really is a multiple personality disorder poet.
one reader asked me if i had any criticisms of twilight innings. i rather enjoyed the book and wish that i'd spaced the material out over more than a weekend. still, i wondered at the inclusion of an occasional essay or two that wandered away from narrative and into reflection. i also found it difficult to tease meaning out of some of the stories, but i suppose that's okay.
the reader also asked why there aren't bylines on the blurbs. his hypothesis was that because image is a christian journal they somehow find it self-serving or unchristian to credit authors directly. interesting idea, but i think that's socialism, not christianity! still, he could be right; i'm not sure why imageupdate doesn't include bylines. (perhaps because imageupdate is, after all, a newsletter not a journal.)