There isn't much great fiction about pool. In fact, the only book I know of any repute is The Hustler by Walter Tevis. It was made into a film starring Paul Newman. The film was so successful they even made a sequel, The Colour of Money. I often wonder if they'll make a third one.
Because that’s how Hollywood works. If something makes a bit of cash they will do the same thing over and over, same actors, same plot.
I read about this whole phenomena once. It said something along the lines that our culture is trapped in a cycle of mass despondency regurgitating soulless paradigms of optimism to offset our post-millennial angst. For some reason I spent a whole day just memorising that line. I didn't understand it a great deal but I did know it made me want to eat and then shit out the steel toecaps my mum had bought me that time I was being bullied by the other boys on the estate. These boys, they used to hold me down and pee on me behind Mace.
When I told my mum about it, crying and still dripping wet, all she said was, what goes around comes around and I should learn to stick up for myself. Nobody liked a crybaby. Then she got me the steel toecaps. They were like something Jack Kennedy would’ve worn, back when he was a bovver boy on the streets of Brookline, Massachusetts.
One thing that The Hustler did was that it introduced the world to the character Minnesota Fats. Shortly after the film started showing in movie theatres fat pool players began popping up on chat shows all over America claiming to be the real Minnesota Fats.
"He was based on me," they would say. "That curve shot, I have patent on it. I should sue their asses."
It got to be such a lucrative sideline that even fat people who had never shot a game of pool in their life would turn up on these chat shows.
"That body you see in the movie," they would say, "was based on mine. I spent years working on it, building it up and now they've taken it from me. I don't know. I guess I feel, like, raped by the whole experience."
The best one was this guy who made a real packet claiming that Minnesota Fats was definitely him. Now this guy, he could play pool, but he was as thin as a pool cue held sideways.
"They've distorted the whole issue," he said. "They've made my life into a pastiche. It's got now so that I can't even go out of the house. I feel humiliated. I mean, they might as well have put me in an electric chair and pulled the trigger.”
This guy even appeared on Johnny Carson. They flew him to New York and
put him up in a fancy hotel. Truman Capote was staying in the next room and, although this man had never had a homosexual experience before, he ended up being seduced by Capote. The affair ended badly, tears, tantrums and a trip to A&E, and three weeks later the man was photographed by Diane Arbus wearing nothing but a leather thong and chaps in an infamous New York pissoir, on all fours, looking over his shoulder, a Bette Davis come-hither splashed right across his kisser.
The photograph went on to win a Pulitzer.
Years later the man wrote a novel about the whole experience in the style of In Cold Blood. It sold phenomenally well and he bought a condo in the Florida Keys. He still lives there although he doesn't play much pool. He claims it is because of the humidity but those in the know on Florida’s underground leather scene know different.
"Florida is not a pool playing state," they say, "that’s true. But when you’re crying into your beans at Pump and Grind every weeknight claiming how bad Capote treated you you’re never going to sink an 8 ball, are you?”
By the way, Minnesota Fats lives on even today. There’s this pool hall where I go to get away from those bullying boys. You remember, the ones who used to hold me down on pee on me? They’re older now, mid 20s, even knocking 30, but they’re still at it. Like the Hollywood franchise that never dies.
Pee Hard 8: The Next Level.
So this pool hall has become my safe space. Mine and Minnesota Fats. My old pal.
For when a guy makes what he thinks is a great shot he'll stand back, put his hands on his hips, his pool cue sticking up in the air like some knight on a sojourn’s lance, and then he'll smile. Probably he'll slap his thigh.
"Minnesota Fats is alive and well," he'll say. He'll say it in a real loud voice just so that everyone can hear. “Minnesota Fats is alive and well!”
But this is the real rub of the matter, the thing that keeps my balls snug in my underpants. Minnesota Fats never even existed, he was just the figment of Walter Tevis's imagination. He said so at
Ohio state university in 1974. "As surely as Disney made up Donald Duck," he said, "I made up Minnesota Fats."
So there are all these guys all over the world pretending to be someone who always was a fiction. It's like pretending to be Batman or Homer Simpson or Donald Trump’s evil twin.
Perhaps that guy who made me want to eat and shit out my steel toecaps was right after all. Perhaps we are trapped in a culture of mass despondency. I don't know.
But what I do know is this.
You see any guys who want to pee on you, you run in the opposite direction. And if there’s a pool hall along the way, duck inside, close the door, rack up a set.
Then you’ll be ok. You and Minnesota Fats.
What a fucking legend.
(This is something I wrote a while ago, reworked.)
Image from Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/photos/billiards-balls-table-cloth-play-2795546/