Spirits in the Grass
Paperback | 9780268158828 | December 2008
Hardcover | 9780268035136 | December 2008
eBook (PDF) | 9780268158767 | December 2008
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268086701 | December 2008
When Bill Meissner’s collection of short stories Hitting into the Wind was published in 1994, it was called “a quiet masterpiece of baseball writing” by the Greensboro, North Carolina, News and Record. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said, “Bill Meissner captures baseball with all its crystalline beauty—the remarkable reverberation of time and space and character.” And The New York Times Book Review said, “Just about every tale here recalls those precious years when a chance to play in the majors was all a boy could ask from life.”
Now, in his first novel, Bill Meissner again uses baseball as a window to his characters. In Spirits in the Grass, we meet Luke Tanner, a thirty-something ball player helping to build a new baseball field in his beloved hometown of Clearwater, Wisconsin. Luke looks forward to trying out for the local amateur team as soon as possible. His chance discovery of a small bone fragment on the field sets in motion a series of events and discoveries that will involve his neighbors, local politicians, and the nearby Native American reservation. Luke’s life, most of all, will be transformed. His growing obsession with the ball field and what’s beneath it threatens his still fragile relationship with his partner, Louise, and challenges Luke’s assumptions about everyone, especially himself.
Spirits in the Grass rings true with small-town Midwestern values. The characters, including Luke’s independent partner Louise, grapple with their passion and their identities. In this beautiful and haunting novel, baseball serves as a metaphor for life itself, with its losses and defeats, its glories and triumphs.
Bill Meissner is the author of three books of poetry and a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in more than 150 journals, magazines, and anthologies. His numerous awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship, five PEN/NEA Syndicated Fiction Awards, two Loft-McKnight Awards, and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship. Meissner is the Director of Creative Writing at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
“In Spirits in the Grass [Meissner] has linked personal and racial history and identity, intimate drama and outright mystery, and the awakening of romance and self-awareness. That's a lot to bring together. . . . But while the mayor flails around . . . and Luke learns something about himself, and the town of Clearwater comes to terms with its shady past and uncertain future, the spirits in the grass rise and assemble, murmuring a truth impervious to villainy, easy psychological insight, and cliché.” ~Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This leisurely paced story reveals small town life in all of its simple pleasures and suffocating traditions as one man tries to unite everyone on the playing field.” ~Daily Herald-Tribune
“In Spirits in the Grass, Meissner explores the hidden heart of America’s Midwest—scratching hard at his character’s dreams to release their nightmares, their truths. His words are supple as grass, his language a graceful dance that is a pure joy to read.” ~Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer
“Spirits in the Grass rings true with small-town Midwestern values. It is a beautiful and haunting novel where baseball serves as a metaphor for life itself, with its losses and defeats, its glories and triumphs.” ~The Algona Upper Desmoines
“An accomplished literary writer crafts a resonant Midwest baseball novel centering on the drama that results when work building a baseball field in a small Wisconsin town uncovers evidence of the area’s Native American past. Luke Tanner, longtime baseball player who makes the discovery, finds his life altered. Meissner has a gift for creating real people on the page.” ~Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"A storyteller with remarkable gifts." ~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, author of Slaughterhouse Five
“It's a mistake to think Spirits in the Grass is just about baseball, unless, of course, you're talking about baseball as a larger metaphor for the way we live our lives. It is the beautifully told story of a young man trying to recapture old dreams, discover who he is historically, psychologically and philosophically, come to terms with relationships old and new, and seek justice.” ~Armchair Interviews
“Meissner has the storyteller’s gift for creative living characters, living speech, living emotions, living drama. He knows his small town baseball, but beyond that, he knows the human spirit.” ~Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
*“Novels about baseball or small-town life often fall prey to a too-easy sentimentality and a tendency toward soft-focus prose. Meissner tackles both these topics but, remarkably, avoids both flaws. Luke is a thirty-something dreamer living a desultory life in a small Wisconsin town and wishing his high-school baseball career hadn’t ended. Now he’s helping build a new ball field and hoping to get a second chance in a local amateur league. But when he finds bone shards in the turf, it appears that the field may be a Native American burial ground; caught between representatives of the local Indian tribe, who want to purify the ground, and the town’s mayor, who wants to protect his plans for a new highway, Luke sees his dream fading yet again. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Louise, is fed up with the town and with Luke’s inability to keep his mind out of the ‘dream-smeared sky.’ Meissner handles all his story lines—the centerfielder manqué, the ‘spirits in the grass,’ the troubled romance, the fight with city hall—with admirable subtlety, sidestepping the multiple clichés that can so easily attach themselves to all of these themes. This is a quiet novel but an emotionally powerful one, rich with ambiguity and with the scent of felt life.” ~Booklist