C Minnesota Fats
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
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 that this writer's whole tone made me want to shit steel toecaps
and eat raw onions for a week.
You see I could imagine this guy in his nice house tap tap tapping
away at the keys of his laptop. I could see his wife downstairs
preparing something with fish. At the weekend he would play golf and
she would bake cakes. On a Sunday night they would go to the cinema and
they would watch a movie. He would go in disguise, a false moustache
and a wig, because he didn't want to be recognised. He had made his
fortune descrying mass culture through his writing and by making
appearances on late night art shows. He didn't want to risk it. If he
was recognised actually enjoying the goddamn circus so to speak then
that was it. The party would be over.
Anyway, he isn't worth thinking about. Except sometimes I do.
Sometimes I blame him that they never made another one of those Hustler
movies. They were great.
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
"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
The best one was this guy who claimed that Minnesota Fats was him. Now
this guy, he could play pool but he was as thin as a pool cue.
"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."
This guy even appeared on Johnny Carson. They flew him to New York and
put him up in a fancy hotel. Later he wrote a novel about the whole
experience. It sold quite 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.
"Florida is not a pool playing state," he said. "But it does grow nice
By the way, Minnesota Fats lives on even today. In the pool hall where
I go when a guy makes what he thinks is a good shot he'll stand back
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. Then later in the toilet if
one of these guys catches you in there they'll tell you again. They
know you are pissing and you can't get away. They've got you and they
When people are trying to boost their own ego they'll stoop low. No
trick is beneath them.
And the thing that makes me sick is that Minnesota Fats never 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
Perhaps that guy was right after all. Perhaps we are trapped in a
culture of mass despondency. I don't know.