Growing up my favorite baseball card was the 1985 Donruss Shawon Dunston Rated Rookie card. I was a huge Cubs fan, but this card seemed to have another story to tell. At the time I suppose I didn't know how to tell that story, but I did know I wanted to hold on to that card. Not for financial reason, but to hold on to the story and that piece of my childhood. In 2010, the baseball card does not mean what it used to, and are not produced for or marketed to the children anymore. However, there is a generation of adults that have that same memory of sorting through baseball cards, opening packs, eating stale gum, and trading with their friends. In his book Cardboard Gods (April 20th, Sever Footer Press), Chicago's Josh Wilker, capture that feeling and goes even further.
Recently Josh was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. On April 29th you can hear Josh read and get your copy of Cardboard Gods signed at Quimby's. The event takes place at 7pm.
Chicago Subtext (CS): The first question has to be is there really a stick of gum included with each book?! If so, did you make sure it was hard and stale?
Josh Wilker (JW): Well, there is hopefully enough in the book in terms of descriptive words and a particular photographic image to create in the mind enough of an idea of gum to head off any false advertising lawsuits. We really did play around for a while with the idea of including an actual stick of gum, but there were a lot of logistical problems, plus a general disapproval of the idea by bookstore owners. I kind of like how things turned out. The book is all about memory, which is certainly a subject that works as an invitation to readers to join in and remember, too, and the lack of gum is a further invitation for readers to create that hard, stale sweetness in their own minds.
CS: What was the first card you ever used in your writing?
JW: I started writing about my cards every once in a while during the year I spent in a cabin in the woods that had no running water or electricity. This was about ten years ago. I was going both broke and crazy. I remember writing about Bob Davis, a backup catcher. I didn't start writing about cards on a regular basis until few years later, 2006, when I started the blog. For my first entry, I picked a card at random from my shoebox, and it was Mark Fidrych, the single greatest figure of the entire beautiful decade. I took that as a good omen.
CS: Does the card inspire the writing or does your mood and idea lead you to a certain card?
JW: At first the card took the lead, then after I had been writing about cards for a while my collection became, or became once again after all these years, an extension of my brain, so I could go to a certain card to travel farther down some path I was already exploring. But even then, I'll eventually get to a point where the card shapes the writing. Wherever I thought I was going, the card pushes things in a different direction.
CS: Have you even been contacted by any of players you have written about?
JW: Don Stanhouse may or may not have left a comment on my blog. I think it was him anyway. If you go to my site his somewhat menacing quote is up on the home page. Other than that, the gods have been profoundly indifferent.
CS: How did you get involved with Seven Footer Press?
JW: Seven Footer's editor, Peter Thomas Fornatale, was a fan of my site and contacted me. My agent and I were already in the process of shopping the book around. Seven Footer got into the mix and eventually we decided to go with them. I had a fantastic time working with Pete, and Seven Footer in general has been a great group of people to work with.
For more from Josh Wilker please visit his website Cardboard Gods.