(photographed culled from Larry Brown Sports)
When Michael Dirda once hailed Paul Auster’s characterization of “disoriented heroes in a seemingly familiar world gradually suffused with mounting uneasiness, vague menace and possible hallucination,” the former did so many years before Auster took a keen interest in another disoriented hero. “What I Loved” author Siri Hustvedt compares husband Auster’s fixation on Mets outfielder Lucas Duda to “Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenin’ in which the heroine commits suicide by throwing herself in front of a train,” reports the New York Daily News’ Andy Martino, surely aware that watching Duda attempt to catch a ball hit over his head might inspire an equally desperate act.
When Daniel Murphy steps in against Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd with one out in the first inning, the phone rings. It is Auster’s publisher, informing him that his new memoir, “Winter Journal,” is ascending the New York Times bestseller list.
“I don’t care,” Auster says, amiably, hanging up as Lucas Duda bats. He tops off my glass, and returns to what interests him.
“Oh, we have to talk about Duda,” he continues. “He is a case of temperament and character. The way he hangs his head, the look in his eyes — he could be a great player, but he is bedeviled by doubts.”
Having noted Duda’s confidence gap a few innings earlier — with sympathy, not scorn — Auster stands when the sulky slugger wraps a third-inning homer around the right-field foul pole.
“Oh, Duda! Duda! Good for you!” he says.
In the eighth, Duda steals second base; after sliding, he pops up and seems to inflate.
“Look at Lucas,” Auster says, smiling. “He is looking prouder tonight. Did you see the way he jutted out his chin?”