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The Launch Of The Death Of Baseball

A photograph of Orlando Ortega-Medina sat in front of book shelves, listening to a question being asked

A few weeks ago I received a lovely hand-written invitation to an event I couldn’t miss…

Last night, Orlando Ortega-Medina’s The Death Of Baseball launched at Waterstones Kensington, a brilliant turnout of people on the basement level, canapés and wine on offer, seats surrounded by the well-known black shelves. Train strikes meant that I unfortunately had to leave early, so this post isn’t a full reflection but should give you a good idea of the book following on from my review last month. (Needless to say, I still recommend it.)

The book, a psychological thriller which opens on 5th August 1962 and continues through the 1970s, is about two young men. One, Japanese American Clyde, was born on the August date – the day Marilyn Monroe died – and as he grows up he comes to believe he is Monroe reincarnated. The other man, Syrian American Raphael, struggles with kleptomania and the affects of being told he is a special person within his Jewish faith.

Helen Lederer, interviewing, introduced Orlando; the actress (who herself became an author) met him a few years ago and they share some background – both are parents of immigrants. The star of the evening was wearing particularly appropriate attire – his shirt sported prints of Marilyn Monroe alongside other actresses.

The book begins with a first-person note to the reader in Monroe’s voice. Orlando started it that way to give the reader the belief that there might be something in his premise of reincarnation. The follow-on from the prologue, the textual transition to his character Clyde, was a part of this. (The author later said that the book cover depicts Clyde – with its rendering of Monroe, this is a fascinating idea.)

Of the idea in general, and in the context of the abuse Clyde suffers from his father, the author spoke of Clyde protecting himself by protecting Marilyn Monroe inside him. Clyde is Japanese because Orlando thought that would look interesting, a Japanese Marilyn walking down the street. In order for Clyde to embrace his identity as Monroe, he feels he must dress as her. (In the book, Clyde thinks of transitioning but it’s in the context of becoming Marilyn rather than becoming a woman.) Clyde thinks he’s Monroe because the evidence is there – the author noted Clyde’s father talking about spirits inside of his son and Clyde’s believing the idea but not what kind of spirit his father believed it was. Helen asked about why the child abuse; Orlando cited his normal upbringing, that he’s interested in bad behaviour because of the difference.

Book cover of The Death of Baseball

In the case of Raphael, he thrives in his religion. Orlando cited him as his favourite character. The kleptomania is not his fault, he said, it’s a psychological condition for which he needs help and support. The familial support is something he doesn’t receive; his mother doesn’t understand him and thinks he can change, easily.

Of the sexuality of both characters, the author noted wanting to make it just another part of them. The relationships/sort-of relationships in the book deal a lot with unrequited love, but Orlando, whilst having a firm opinion himself, leaves the last situation of love in the book to the reader.

The author wanted to explore how people find their identity, having felt himself a foreigner at home having been born in the USA whilst his parents had immigrated there from elsewhere. He’d wanted to explore identity in his previous book, Jerusalem Ablaze, but the opportunity had not arisen.

Orlando’s writing method gels with what you might expect upon reading the book – he writes automatically, writing down whatever flows, and goes where the inspiration takes him. Of the reading experience of the book, Helen summed it up: ‘you do have to concentrate but it’s not difficult to concentrate’.

This reader can only agree.

My thanks to the author for inviting me. The Death Of Baseball published today.


Tracy Terry

June 25, 2019, 5:00 pm

why doesn’t Waterstones in Newcastle have any events like this?

What sounds like a great event. I’ll be sure to keep a look out for The Death Of Baseball


July 8, 2019, 11:46 am

Tracy Terry: I know; there are few in my area, too. Can’t say for certain of course, but I’d say the scales would tip a bit towards you liking the book than not.



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