Half Empty, Since 1998

Part 1 of Robert Towell’s Bowling series, "It Wouldn’t Kill You To Stop."

Bending The Medium

Robert Towell. July 1st, 2001
Bowling Ball

I’ll be the first to say it, there is little life left in bowling and art. There wasn’t anything there. It wasn’t even a one night stand with me, I don’t remember the sex. The movement of the game over my body undoing my pants and taking me in. Each day I carry on, fettered to the pins as it were; there is a little bit of space left to walk. A little bit of plank left and then, its time to swim with them sharks. It is arguably to dumbest thing I ever did and I did it for so long. Bowling in general is a pre-determined event set out frame by frame, lace bit by lace bit, by Satan himself.

The truth is, unless you just sit there in the bowling alley, use it as a backdrop, the medium is totally void of anything coherently passionate, it doesn’t move or fuck or talk back. It’s a host, a dirty thing that gets invaded by unsafe shoe sex.

In my first of two installments I hope to better the world through demonstrating unique approaches to bowling related art. Or at least take up word counts towards my life sentence of bowling journalism. What kind of freak show drug has made me remember to do this? To write this? When did I take it? What pharmacy did I walk into thinking it was a great buffet table? Whatever it is, its still in me, and it’s still going strong. Maybe I was born next to a radio-active bowling alley. The haunting stupidity of the senseless game, an omen, some sort of shaman demon disco fever that sweats continual. But I digress. Each artist, like each bowler approaching the ‘medium’ in their own way.

At first I thought I would write about Robert Putnam’s book BOWLING ALONE: America’s Declining Social Capital but then I got lost in the deluge of boring artless sadness sterile…I thought I was bowling.

Of all the bowling related art I’ve collected over the past three years, one book has stood on its own. A "pulp artifact" by fictional author Dashiell Loveless, designed in the fashion of a 1940s detective novel. The story ‘By The Balls” is that of detective Ben Drake who investigates the who and the why behind the brutal murder of local bowling hero Gentleman Joe Biggs. Its beautifully written, one scene early on shows a family bowling next to Gentelman Joe Biggs’s flower adorned lane. The book is so tiny and cute that its worth the cost of shipping from Ugly Town Books.

"[An] affectionate salute to the vererable hard-boiled genre."
-Publishers Weekly

"By the Balls is retro at its best, in both story and packaging-more please!"
– Joe Lansdale, author of Rumble Tumble and Bad Chili

"Every cup of coffee, sleazy witness, and see-though negligee is critiqued in hard-bitten style by detective Ben Drake in this soubly amusing book … not to be missed."
– James DiGiovanna, Amazon.com

"By the Ballsis classic ahrd-boiled detective fiction reminiscent of Mike Hammer, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Highly recommended."
– Midwest Book Review

"Hopper’s Diner. Bowling groupies. ‘It was a nice crowd, no one went out of their way to let me by.’ They have to love this, I can’t wait to see [the printed book]. Actually, I can hear it – just the way I used to hear ‘Boston Blackie’ and ‘Sam Spade’ fifty years ago, before you could see anything on the airwaves. You have EXACTLY gotten the counterpoint of speech and narrative I’ve missed for decades … I found myself filling in the character, effects, and music cues in sidebars as I read."
-Frank Zbozny (Professor of Medieval Literature, Duquesne University)

I’m not intentionally running an infomercial on this book, but I will say this, you should read it. It’s something that is warm and fuzzy and also entirely aesthetically pure. The art is sparse, there isn’t much of it, but when it does come, it is a great break in the dingy little narrative. The book itself is the selling point, like a team of mad scientist trying to make a bowling murder mystery in some sort of pre-med initiation. By The Balls is a pure piece of bowling art because it is so dismissive, so unintentional that one can’t help but think this entire book didn’t even need a bowling sub-plot. It’s just there. They aren’t making anything out of bowling that isn’t there. And its about fucking time because bowling is so goddamn stupid.


It Wouldn’t Kill You To Stop

  1. Bending The Medium
  2. It’s No Gimmick: Interview with Bowling For Soup
  3. The Final Nightmare