Wednesday, July 23, 2014
July 21, 2014 Issue
Ben McGrath’s “Big Air,” in this week’s issue, an account of the 2014 Austin X Games, fizzes in the same delightful way that his sparkling piece on the 2012 London Olympics (“Medals and Marketing,” The New Yorker, August 13 & 20, 2012), did. McGrath’s writing effervesces in direct proportion to the amount of exotic lingo generated by his subjects. The X Games is a cornucopia of action-sports argot (“BMX dirt mounds,” “the megaramp,” “Stadium Super Trucks,” “Big Air events,” “freestyle motocross”). McGrath revels in it. His avidity produces sentences that are, in their offbeat specificity, simply delicious. Take this line, for example:
Big Air events, for skateboarding and BMX, respectively, filled the prime-time slots on Friday and Saturday nights, bringing dope clouds to the hillside overlooking the megaramp.
Or this one:
I watched an Evil Genius pick up his backpack and head abruptly for the exit, so I followed him, catching him just in time to see him put on a pair of Ray-Bans with camouflaged frames, good for blending in with the fans arriving for Super Trucks.
“Big Air” brims with amazing, quasi-surreal word combos beautifully capturing both the allure and the “ad-hoc scruffiness” of X Games culture. I enjoyed it immensely.
Postscript: A special shout-out to Sue Song for her wonderful “Heart,” particularly its inspired closing stanza: “Forgive those years I left you / pounding your Morse of grief, alone – / knocking against my sternum, / wondering if I was even there.”