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Women Writers: An Anthology of Their Own

March 08, 1994|JOSH GETLIN

Elinor Nauen strikes a blow this season for literary and gender equality in the national pastime. While men continue to dominate baseball writing, women authors have also taken a swing at it. Their finest efforts are collected in "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (Faber and Faber).

Nauen believes it's long overdue. Most women don't agonize over the realization that they'll never play shortstop for the Dodgers, she says, and this frees them to write more purely about the game. Instead of fighting personal baseball demons, they're open to real literary insight.

Her anthology draws on well-known writers ranging from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Annie Dillard, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Anna Quindlen and Bette Bao Lord to poet Marianne Moore. Their entries touch on the game's psychological links between generations, the impact of Jackie Robinson, baseball's first African American player, and they also include profiles of legendary characters such as former Dodgers' broadcaster Red Barber.

The real discoveries, however, come from lesser-known writers such as social psychologist Carol Tavris: "To evaluate baseball on the strength of one or two games is like deciding about sex on the basis of one act of love-making. The first time doesn't tell you anything. Now eventually you may decide you love baseball or hate it, just as you may love sex or hate it, but it takes experience to make a smart decision."

Meanwhile, Mary Cecile Leary observes: "Baseball is where boys practice being boys and men practice being boys, and they get real good at it." In "Dodger Stadium," Eve Babitz dwells on the intersection of sex, machismo and mythology at a Los Angeles game. And in "No Particular Place to Go," Linda Gebroe exults in the quiet peace of Candlestick Park after a Giants contest.

Nauen, a writer and poet who lives in New York City, says her women's anthology reveals a different perspective--a sense that there's more to the old ballgame than runs, hits and life errors:

"Women are not told what to look for in a ballgame, so they learn to look for themselves," she say. "Baseball lets people be more sentimental than other kinds of writing, but while men draw the line, women don't have to. They can get the pure hit of a feeling. It's a mixture of fantasy and reality."

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