Cedar Falls author explores Parallel Lines and the Hockey Universe
CEDAR FALLS -- "Hockey's a game of emotion," says coach Scott Christie in Parallel Lines and the Hockey Universe.
Christie might be a figment of author Grant Tracey's imagination, but truer words were never spoken by a fictional character.
"I love hockey," enthuses Tracey, who grew up in Toronto. "I love the game. There's the finesse, the power, the improvisation that takes place on the ice. It's my favorite sport and part of my cultural identity."
So it's not surprising that hockey -- the real deal or as a metaphor for life -- is the thread that weaves through nearly every story in Tracey's new book, recently published by Pocol Press of Clifton, Va.
Tracey is fiction editor of the North American Review and an associate professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa.
Many of the stories contain a nugget of autobiographical truth, Tracey says. "I take things that I have experienced and invent around that, put it in a different context. There are so many stories written about baseball and only a few about hockey. I wanted to write about it and maybe fill the void."
Tracey's stories also incorporate life in a small community, family struggles, pop culture, parenting, sexuality, love, sportsmanship and the other stuff of life.
In "Dragonflies," a 17-year-old hockey player isn't quite sure how to comfort his house parents' daughter, Annie, when she finds out her parents are getting a divorce
In another story, "Public Speaking," a Macedonian kid preparing for a junior high school speech contest, wishes he were Jewish: "To be Jewish was hard and wild, to be Macedonian was lost and invisible. Jews existed. They had cultural capital. ... I wanted to borrow those voices and engage in their dialogue because as a Macedonian I had nothing, not even a flag -- my grandfather's country was annexed by the Yugoslavians and Greeks. We had no Lenny Bruce."
Young hockey players, Geoff and Cindy, play and talk hockey, then play "Truth or Dare" to find out who has a crush in another story. Later, they get caught spying on a young couple necking. Geoff thinks about kissing Cindy, but doesn't have the nerve and luckily, talk turns to wrist shots and scoring goals.
Brian Daldorph, author of Outcasts and editor of the Coal City Review, says, "Hockey coach Scott Christie tells his team, the Waterloo Black Hawks, that they don't play "pansy, wussy-ass 'European-style' hockey." Coach wants his men to hit hard enough to kill a whole country. That's the sort of hockey Grant Tracey plays in this first collection: blue-collar tough stories."
G.W. Clift, former editor of Literary Magazine Review and author of Mustaches and Other Stories, says Tracey's book makes him a "natural heir to Sherwood Anderson."
In all, there are 21 short stories in Tracey's Parallel Lines and the Hockey Universe. The earliest story dates from 1987, but serious writing began in the mid-1990s. He took bus trips with Waterloo Black Hawks, watching the team play, interviewing coaches and players.
"I wanted to know things like, 'What does a goalie think about?' I knew a lot about hockey but I didn't have that inside information. I took a lot of notes, made a lot of tapes," Tracey says.
As a youth, Tracey played hockey with great enthusiasm. "But I wasn't naturally good. I had good hands and instincts, but I wasn't a great skater. I also played a lot of road hockey in running shoes, playing for hours with sticks and a tennis ball."
Writing the stories has been rewarding on several levels, the author says. "When I'm writing, I start with characters first and then create situations. I never know where I'm going, and sometimes the characters take me places I didn't know I wanted to go. That used to scare me when that happened, but now I'm used to it and go with it."
Currently, Tracey is working on a novella.
Parallel Lines and the Hockey Universe is $12.95, available at Bought again Books in Cedar Falls and Waldenbooks at Crossroads Center. Copies also are available from Pocol press at www.pocolpress.com.