Now this is a book review. D.J. Waldie considers the latest book by another Los Angeles author, Jesse Katz, and says "The Opposite Field" is "a sweet baseball memoir with unexpected elements of politics, the ethics of cultural appropriation and the unease of negotiating a new kind of American place."
Katz starts with the old faith’s essentials: a baseball diamond and a boy. The diamond is La Loma field in Monterey Park, just beyond the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles where barrio becomes suburb. The boy is Max, his son—“maple colored,” a mestizo, the only Jewish Nicaraguan in East L.A. “I have rinsed his wounds at La Loma,” Katz writes of Max, “iced him, kneaded him, bandaged him, scooped him off the ground, his face streaked with sweat and clay and eye-black grease, and held him in my arms.”
Katz extends his embrace beyond the brown body of his son and his own memories of Little League games. He has gotten the dirt of La Loma under his skin and he will not rub the stain of it out. La Loma is his memory palace, his dating service and his fatherhood proving ground. La Loma is his temple on a hill in L.A.
Waldie, whose piece is online at Truthdig, writes that "'The Opposite Field' is a lot like Los Angeles. It’s about desire and its consequences, some of them awful....He has sailed a fly ball deep into what it means to be an Angeleño."
Katz thinks of himself as a border-jumping, Castilian-inflected, Bennington-educated outsider, one who can more easily interview L.A. gangsters because he speaks the stilted Spanish of their grandparents and belongs to no discernable faction. And he isn’t the odd Jew among Latinos that he thinks he is. He’s just another Anglo or just another Angeleño—that amphibious being whose demographic status slips from minority to majority depending on the time of day, the neighborhood and the route of his commute. For Katz, baseball is about lines and rules, some of the rules requiring Talmudic reinterpretation to make them work in the real world. Los Angeles is that world, where most boundaries are poorly defined and where we invent the rules daily.