WAIVERING

As we wait for the Oilers rookie TC list, one of the things we can chat about during this rain (snow?) delay is the waiver wire. The Oilers famously used this service last fall when Luke Gazdic was placed on waivers. Edmonton had some nice options on the waiver wire that day, here’s what I said about them at the time:

  1. C-R Adam Hall: Veteran center who is pretty familiar with a 4line role and defensive hockey. I’d like to have him as an Oiler, bet he gets plucked before Edmonton can pick.
  2. C-L Luke Adam: 2nd round pick in 2008, pretty famous prospect since then but hasn’t been able to get any traction. He did play one complete season (11-12) and then couldn’t make it in the shortened season. Might be exceptional value.
  3. R Colton Sceviour: Young winger annually in the top 10 (AHL) in shots on goal, has scored 20 goals two seasons in a row (AHL) and is described as having some two-way ability. My ongoing search for a modern Fernando Pisani compels me to list him here.
  4. W Chris Porter: Veteran has some size and some checking ability. Likely a pass, but he has value.
  5. L Luke Gazdic: 6.03, 230 enforcer.

Source

Here are the NHL stat lines for those men from 2013-14:

  • Adam Hall 80GP, 4-5-9  with the Flyers
  • Luke Adam 12GP, 1-0-1 with the Sabres
  • Colton Sceviour 26GP, 8-4-12 with the Stars
  • Chris Porter 22GP, 0-1-1 with the Blues
  • Luke Gazdic 67GP, 2-2-4 with the Oilers

When the Oilers claimed Gazdic, it changed the entire equation of the team. Quoting the Gazdic claim post:

  • the Edmonton Oilers are going to be a very physical team and the possession talk of summer has given way to something else this fall. The Sam Gagner injury may have long reaching impact on the Edmonton Oilers beyond the injury itself.

And we are here. Sam’s in Arizona, Luke’s recovering and the Oilers MAY be looking over the waiver wire during training camp this fall. The waiver wire ALWAYS gives value, the trick is pulling the trigger on the transaction (Sceviour would have been a nice addition a year ago, as an example). I would prefer a waiver pickup who has some value to a trade for an overpriced salary dump like Chris Kelly at this point.

Why? I believe Mark Arcobello could be a useful NHL player for years, and bringing in an expensive veteran might squeeze him back onto a 4line role as happened a year ago. The issue I have is with a safety net for Leon Draisaitl, not with Arcobello playing a complementary role on a two-way line as a center. A waiver pickup is far more likely to serve the Oilers in this situation.

We wait.

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43 Responses to "WAIVERING"

  1. Ducey says:

    Capgeek now lists the waiver status of every player.

  2. Lowetide says:

    Ducey:
    Capgeek now liststhe waiver status of every player.

    Oilers have a ton who need to clear, and will. Which is not funny, but it’s true.

  3. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    It’s really hard to put oneself back into that frame of mind.

    When Gazdic was picked up, the team already had Eager and Brown. And, they had just picked up SMac.

    The whole situation was absurd.

    The dream for Brown was that he would keep the Oilers from adding these guys by draft, trade, etc. Clearly that didn’t work.

    Let’s hope Gazdic (and Hendricks to some extent) can fill that need.

  4. Ducey says:

    How about Carl Klingberg from WINNI?

    Good skater, good size, plays physical. Second round pick. Can play center. 42 pts in 65 AHL games including 22 goals last year.

    Might be the replacement for MPS as the next Pisani.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Ducey:
    How about Carl Klingberg from WINNI?

    Good skater, good size, plays physical.Second round pick.Can play center.42 pts in 65 AHL games including 22 goals last year.

    Might be the replacement for MPS as the next Pisani.

    Sounds interesting. This is actually my favorite hockey thing, well this and the draft. LOVE the waiver wire.

  6. Ducey says:

    Here is the blurb from his draft year:

    International Scouting Services: “Klingberg is a very talented playmaking winger who can also play center. He has great touch with the puck and is particularly strong on the PP. A very fluid and powerful skater, he is constantly in motion and understands the offensive zone very well, especially away from the puck. He always seems to get open at the right times and is not afraid to get to the net to make a play and with his great 6’03” 205lbs frame, he is very hard to contain inside the slot. Can really take over the offensive zone. Showed ability, skill and speed to beat defender wide and then cut back to the net. Displayed a good shot with quick release. Big player who skates well, plays physical, and is willing to go to those tough areas to score.

  7. Deadman Waiting says:

    What what I’ve seen, most hockey organizations don’t behave as if the waiver wire is a horn of plenty; consequently, I presume the hidden costs must be larger than one might at first suspect. A statistic I’d be very interested to see is what percentage of players, having been listed on the waiver wire for the first time, ever manage to achieve a stretch of 20 consecutive NHL games which hockey statistics (pick your poison) would construe as surpassing the league-average ANP Mendoza line (by whatever criteria one wishes to use).

    If the waiver prospect is better than what you have, but never again surpasses the league-average Mendoza line, then the waiver pickup can help your squad suck less, but he can’t help you win—not now and not later.

    He might be able to stall some green prospects who still need some seasoning at the lower levels.

    Your prospects (and their agents), however, don’t want to be stalled: it hits their lifetime career earnings right between the golf-club membership cards. Everyone gets being stalled behind someone who is getting the job done better than you can do it yourself (as translated to the W/L column). It’s harder to accept being stalled behind someone barely better than yourself, and with even less potential. I don’t think pipeline filler is well received.

    Agents, if not the players themselves, tend to have long memories. People all get horse-trader hard ons when mid-tier prospects hit their RFA negotiation window. Don’t tip your hand. Don’t disguise your needs so well the phone never rings. We’ve heard all the narratives. The one we rarely hear is the agent thinking to himself “two seasons ago, my guy got stalled at a minor-league pay grade for another year of his playing career while Luke Adam flamed out, yet again. Concessions, conschmessions.”

    I remain convinced that somewhere in the mix there are costs to these transactions that don’t immediately greet the eye, or the teams would behave differently: more teams would be overcalling 1 club with 1 diamond from second position, rather than taking the sissy pass.

  8. speeds says:

    Deadman Waiting,

    A number of the teams legitimately won’t have a sensible, better option to claim. Some will, but it’s a marginal upgrade, 50 man roster issues, etc. Some will, and are aware they are leaving a better player out there but do so for the reasons you state (ie. their team is terrible anyways, might as well use those minutes to develop someone they see having more upside even if it isn’t likely to pay off).

    Others are irrationally attached to “their guys”, the sunk cost fallacy, and make errors.

  9. Lowetide says:

    speeds:
    Deadman Waiting,

    A number of the teams legitimately won’t have a sensible, better option to claim.Some will, but it’s a marginal upgrade, 50 man roster issues, etc.Some will, and are aware they are leaving a better player out there but do so for the reasons you state (ie. their team is terrible anyways, might as well use those minutes to develop someone they see having more upside even if it isn’t likely to pay off).

    Others are irrationally attached to “their guys”, the sunk cost fallacy, and make errors.

    Jeff Drouin Deslauriers anyone?

  10. Woodguy says:

    The time to use the waiver wire was the summer of 2013 when Grabbo had 5 years left at $5MM/yr

    How does 4 more years of Grabbo at $5MM look today?

    Many of us were screaming for that to happen.

    MacT passed.

    Awful decision given the state of his C’s.

    Awful.

  11. ashley says:

    But weren’t there some character questions with Grabovski? At that time anyway?

  12. Lowetide says:

    Woodguy:
    The time to use the waiver wire was the summer of 2013 when Grabbo had 5 years left at $5MM/yr

    How does 4 more years of Grabbo at $5MM look today?

    Many of us were screaming for that to happen.

    MacT passed.

    Awful decision given the state of his C’s.

    Awful.

    Had he traded Horcoff yet? I understand your point, and agree, but my memory lapses on these things. Grabbo AND Horc would have been a lot of do-re-mi.

  13. jake70 says:

    Deadman Waiting:
    What what I’ve seen, most hockey organizations don’t behave as if the waiver wire is a horn of plenty; consequently, I presume the hidden costs must be larger than one might at first suspect.A statistic I’d be very interested to see is what percentage of players, having been listed on the waiver wire for the first time, ever manage to achieve a stretch of 20 consecutive NHL games which hockey statistics (pick your poison) would construe as surpassing the league-average ANP Mendoza line (by whatever criteria one wishes to use).

    If the waiver prospect is better than what you have, but never again surpasses the league-average Mendoza line, then the waiver pickup can help your squad suck less, but he can’t help you win—not now and not later.

    He might be able to stall some green prospects who still need some seasoning at the lower levels.

    Your prospects (and their agents), however, don’t want to be stalled: it hits their lifetime career earnings right between the golf-club membership cards.Everyone gets being stalled behind someone who is getting the job done better than you can do it yourself (as translated to the W/L column).It’s harder to accept being stalled behind someone barely better than yourself, and with even less potential.I don’t think pipeline filler is well received.

    Agents, if not the players themselves, tend to have long memories.People all get horse-trader hard ons when mid-tier prospects hit their RFA negotiation window.Don’t tip your hand.Don’t disguise your needs so well the phone never rings.We’ve heard all the narratives.The one we rarely hear is the agent thinking to himself “two seasons ago, my guy got stalled at a minor-league pay grade for another year of his playing career while Luke Adam flamed out, yet again. Concessions, conschmessions.”

    I remain convinced that somewhere in the mix there are costs to these transactions that don’t immediately greet the eye, or the teams would behave differently: more teams would be overcalling 1 club with 1 diamond from second position, rather than taking the sissy pass.

    This is a great post on an aspect of player procurement that seems so trivial but has all kinds of potential land mines associated with it.

  14. Frank The Dog says:

    It doesn’t really matter who they didn’t bring in prior to this season. We lacked NHL calibre coaching where it counts.

  15. RexLibris says:

    Lowetide: Sounds interesting. This is actually my favorite hockey thing, well this and the draft. LOVE the waiver wire.

    This may be an Oier-fan thing, because I’ve always loved it as well.

    Free players!

    I have a theory, if you can’t drive past a garage sale without at least slowing down, you probably love the waiver wire.

    It also helps that the Oilers used to find actual players here way back when. Steve Staios anyone?

    Sceviour would’ve been nice a year ago, although he’d block Lander or Pitlick this season if he were around. He had a nice stats line according to HA: http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=1463. The IPP and iFenwick are impressive for limited TOI. WOWYs don’t look nearly as damning as Gazdic’s, but they are different players.

    I’d be tempted to waive Gazdic this coming year but for one wrinkle. The Flames have added beef recently in Wolf and Van Brabant to back up McGrattan in some nihilistic pursuit of “toughness”. While I’ve no desire to keep a knuckledragger on the roster, neither do I want to watch the Oilers win games at the cost of injured players and the Flames games are going to be crucial wins if the Oilers are going to turn this thing around.

  16. Jon K says:

    Lowetide: Had he traded Horcoff yet? I understand your point, and agree, but my memory lapses on these things. Grabbo AND Horc would have been a lot of do-re-mi.

    No, they hadn’t. Horcoff was traded July 5th, and Grabo was placed on waivers July 4th. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that MacT had already said it would best for Hemsky and Horc to be moved, and they would have known they were trading Horcoff when Grabo hit the waiver wire, one would think.

    As I recall, a number of people here and elsewhere were desperately hoping for MacT to pick up Grabo on the waiver wire. It seemed like a mistake to let him slide on July 7th, and it seems like a mistake now, still.

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=676590

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=676443

  17. Dicky94 says:

    Ducey,

    Winnipeg liked what they seen in the three games he played near the end of the season. Sounds like he will make the team this fall.

  18. ashley says:

    Deadman Waiting,

    What was the point of Ryan Jones on this team? I thought it was going to be a 5 or 10 game thing. It turned into a multiyear waiver pick up.

  19. Frank The Dog says:

    ashley:
    Deadman Waiting,

    What was the point of Ryan Jones on this team?I thought it was going to be a 5 or 10 game thing.It turned into a multiyear waiver pick up.

    That manner in which he rushed up and down the ice and scored goals from time to time seemed impressive to some.

  20. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Jussi Jokinen went through waivers at one point in the lock out season too, didn’t he… and Adam Hall… both while we had half an NHL center to rely on if memory serves.

    Of course… Tambo solved the problem by waiting… waiting… waiting… trading for Smithson.

  21. Lowetide says:

    the only problem with Ryan Jones is that everything, EVERYTHING about him suggested he was an offensive option, and the Oilers needed Pisani. Jones was miscast.

  22. fifthcartel says:

    Romulus Apotheosis,

    Tambellini not claiming Jussi Jokinen off waivers for nothing, but trading a 4th round pick for 10 games of Jerrred Smithson is pretty Tambellini of Tambellini.

  23. Ryan says:

    Woodguy:
    The time to use the waiver wire was the summer of 2013 when Grabbo had 5 years left at $5MM/yr

    How does 4 more years of Grabbo at $5MM look today?

    Many of us were screaming for that to happen.

    MacT passed.

    Awful decision given the state of his C’s.

    Awful.

    That ship has long sailed, but yeah that was a huge gaffe.

    Dammit. When the consensus at lowetide blog is you take the waiver claim… That’s what the GM should do. Maybe Dellow will tell Mact to read this blog. :)

    Collectively, we’re right (the consensus here) more often than Oilers management.

  24. Ryan says:

    Ryan: That ship has long sailed, but yeah that was a huge gaffe.

    Dammit.When the consensus at lowetide blog is you take the waiver claim… That’s what the GM should do.Maybe Dellow will tell Mact to read this blog.

    Collectively, we’re right (the consensus here) more often than Oilers management.

    For what it’s worth, I was among the group of people screeming at the top of my lungs, “Grab Grabbo!!!!”

    Sadly, I’m just not that influentiall

  25. Ryan says:

    Ryan: For what it’s worth, I was among the group of people screeming at the top of my lungs, “Grab Grabbo!!!!”

    Sadly, I’m just not that influentiall

    It gets worse…

    Iirc, the drum I was banging on was the “grab Grabbo” and “sell high on Gagner” drum…

  26. SK Oiler Fan says:

    Great topic LT. I wonder if some of these salary dump waiver pickups go something like this:
    Mac T: We’re thinking about putting in a claim on Grabo.
    Agent: Mmmm, no thanks, he’d really rather stay in the east.
    MacT: We could really use a third line center. And we have a big mall with a water park!
    Agent: Thanks, but no thanks. It just won’t work for Grabo and his family. I suggest you pass.

    I know the player doesn’t technically have a choice in the matter, but I think the agents still have some influence as to where their player goes. Unhappy players and Public trade demands aren’t good for anyone.

  27. steveb12344 says:

    I think it needs to be noted, regarding Grabovski; One of the main reasons Toronto bought him out was that he was seriously disgruntled about getting third line min. and was making a big deal out of it with the media. IIRC he said Carlyle was an idiot, or something to that effect.

    At the time even with Horc gone we had RNH, and Ganga set in stone at 1, and 2 Centre. I don’t think the optics of the situation looked as good then as they do now. Did we really want a 5 million dollar, disgruntled third line Centre?

  28. Hammers says:

    Ryan: That ship has long sailed, but yeah that was a huge gaffe.

    Dammit.When the consensus at lowetide blog is you take the waiver claim… That’s what the GM should do.Maybe Dellow will tell Mact to read this blog.

    Collectively, we’re right (the consensus here) more often than Oilers management.

    You don’t really believe any G.M. would work off a blog do you . Even Tambo didn’t and he was # 30 out of 30 G.M.’s . I think there are a lot of smart hockey guys that write blogs but any NHL team has a group of pros spending 100% of there time on hockey ( choke choke ) > Maybe the analytic types will suggest there are good ideas out there ! I hope so .

  29. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Now that I think about it… one of the knocks on Jussi was that he had an extra year on his contract at 3M

    http://www.capgeek.com/player/533

    Still don’t make sense.

    What’s interesting about the Grabo situation was MacT seemed to get the do-over of signing him to a deal for 2013-14. In his pre-Free Agent presser he name dropped him as a value pick up.

    A savvy reporter would have asked: “if you identify Grabo as a good signing in hindsight… do you also identify him as a good waiver pick up?”

  30. Bank Shot says:

    A waiver wire pickup of a Centre would be better than nothing St this point.

    The NHL depth is razor thin and the call up options are appalling.

    Jason Williams, Acton, and some guys that haven’t played any pro hockey.

    The Oilers should really be looking at carrying another center on their roster out of camp.

  31. Gerta Rauss says:

    SK Oiler Fan: I know the player doesn’t technically have a choice in the matter, but I think the agents still have some influence as to where their player goes. Unhappy players and Public trade demands aren’t good for anyone.

    13.13 Waiver Notification

    (b) A Player who is placed on Waivers by his Club may request permission from his
    Club to contact other Clubs during the applicable Waiver period to discuss such other Clubs’
    level of potential interest in the Player’s services. The Club may decline such request in its sole
    discretion. If such permission is granted, it must be evidenced in writing from the Club, with a
    copy to Central Registry and the NHLPA, all in accordance with Exhibit 3 hereof.

    Yes, absolutely, the player does have some input in the transaction.

    And the CBA has a fee schedule of the waiver process based on years in the league(in the $50/60/70 k range) so there is real money involved too

  32. Romulus Apotheosis says:

    Bank Shot: The NHL depth is razor thin and the call up options are appalling.
    Jason Williams, Acton, and some guys that haven’t played any pro hockey.

    Williams isn’t a call-up option. He’s on an AHL contract.

    Which isn’t to say the Oilers couldn’t buy-out the contract and sign him at any time to an NHL contract. It would be essentially a paper transaction.

    In some kind of emergency, I seems pretty clear that the Oilers would fuss about with the lines for a couple games and MacT would force a trade.

  33. Gerta Rauss says:

    Federer is a beauty btw

    I’ve followed tennis for 30 years and the guy is really special, a pleasure to watch.

  34. "Steve Smith" says:

    RexLibris: It also helps that the Oilers used to find actual players here way back when. Steve Staios anyone?

    Staios was a free agent signing (and Vandermeer wasn’t).

  35. "Steve Smith" says:

    Ryan: Sadly, I’m just not that influentiall

    Your trade predictions can’t be beaten, though.

  36. rickithebear says:

    Sell gagner high drum?

    we traded 2 years of top 100 point producing c about to move to wing. with poor d zone coverage.

    For 2 years of top 75 point producing winger. who was very successful at tough Dzone coverage when paired with Pouliot in Tampa.

  37. RexLibris says:

    “Steve Smith”: Rex

    I had always thought he was waived by Atlanta, but I’m getting confused. He had been a waiver pickup by the Canucks before getting plucked by the Thrashers in the expansion draft and then the Thrashers declined a qualifying offer at which point the Oilers stepped in.

    Man, what a journey.

    Was part of the trade that brought Draper to the Jets via a draft pick from the Blues, then goes to the Blues in a trade later, traded to the Bruins, lost off waivers to the Canucks, picked by the Thrashers, then off to the Oilers, and then traded to the Flames before finishing up his career with the Islanders.

    Move over Mike Sillinger.

  38. Bank Shot says:

    J

    Romulus Apotheosis: Williams isn’t a call-up option. He’s on an AHL contract.

    Which isn’t to say the Oilers couldn’t buy-out the contract and sign him at any time to an NHL contract. It would be essentially a paper transaction.

    In some kind of emergency, I seems pretty clear that the Oilers would fuss about with the lines for a couple games and MacT would force a trade.

    Well that’s even worse if Williams isn’t available to be recalled.

    I don’t have the faith you do that Mact would force a trade to fill center. He didn’t last season when Gagner was out and he didn’t trade for Bryzgalov until the season was completely sunk.

    I think it’s more likely based on track record that Mact watches it burn in the event of an injury to center.

  39. Woodguy says:

    Jon K: No, they hadn’t. Horcoff was traded July 5th, and Grabo was placed on waivers July 4th. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that MacT had already said it would best for Hemsky and Horc to be moved, and they would have known they were trading Horcoff when Grabo hit the waiver wire, one would think.

    As I recall, a number of people here and elsewhere were desperately hoping for MacT to pick up Grabo on the waiver wire. It seemed like a mistake to let him slide on July 7th, and it seems like a mistake now, still.

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=676590

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=676443

    Horcoff was actually traded July 4.

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/2013/07/04/edmonton-oilers-trade-former-captain-shawn-horcoff-to-dallas-stars-buy-out-eric-belanger

    Same results though….he was gone when the Oilers had the option on Grabbo

  40. gcw_rocks says:

    Tyson Barrie gets $2m this year and $3.2M next year. He had 13 goals and 25 assists in 64 games and is 23 years old. Good Corsi rel.

    Nice work by sakic. You can see the subban deal as a comparable.

    What was MacT thinking on Schultz?

  41. nycoil says:

    gcw_rocks,

    My theory? He wanted a long-term deal at a lower cap hit. Schultz camp refused. They had MacT’s feet over the coals with the “core” comments he made and the threat of not showing up to camp without a deal and so they settled on a high number.

    MacT has had a pretty average summer: Pooh 2.0 and Fayne good, Petry, Schultz, lack of C depth bad.

  42. oliveoilers says:

    I’m with DMW. There also seems to be some kind of gentleman’s agreement, or at least a feeling of Mutually Assured Destruction with some teams’ assets. I need to research, but I remember seeing some players clearing the waiver wire and thinking “how the hell did he make it through waivers?”

  43. Deadman Waiting says:

    Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott finally trickled onto my hold shelf, although I’ve already switched my future reading diet to books concerning the music instinct. Considering that this book had the longest lending queue by far, I anticipated some kind of special touch or distinction. What I encountered instead was a strange duck.

    The copyright date is 1994, around the time when Al Gore was cooking his first teaspoon of optical-fibre asphalt fixative. Back then, the Amazon was still just some river awaiting fame. This book was definitely written at an interesting juncture. Here’s one fish out of time:

    All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way. Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before.

    This is a funny one, because while I don’t disagree with Twain, I do find myself chuckling a bit over Lamott’s ironic timing. It serves to remind one just how shocking the era of the search engine really is: Google conducts a rather efficient “said before” straw poll for any two or three word phrase you care to throw at, and returns the result in under 400 ms. That is well under the flight time of a heater no hitter can hit. We stand here knee deep in Modernity 2.0.

    I figure I average about one three-word phrase per LT post (distributed in clusters) where Google comes up with an empty sheet (no, it’s not always the case that I achieve this by screwing around with the lexicography). Of course, Google’s index does not represent the entirety of the English language, although as sample sizes go, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of an ooga-platinum hit recording. If one had a time machine and went back to explain to Mr Twain the number of words of English text in the Google index, he would have barked “whoa, cowboy!” and picked up a soiled feather or fountain pen to start hacking off covered wagons of trailing zeroes, three by three. (So there, Mr Wordsworth. Covered wagons of trailing zeroes. We’ve looked at clouds from both scales now: from the molecular to the Magellanic.)

    This still doesn’t complete Twain’s syllogism; all my phrasal neologisms could be shit.

    Are they?

    In a madcap improvisation (via email), I recently penned “factory palimpsest” and “ad hork emetic suppository”. Neither of these phrases have currency in recorded sentences so far as Google is concerned. When I didn’t hear back at the expected time, I dropped my correspondent a note inquiring if my Babylonian mud-brick Ignatius J. Reilly had come across as “too gruff”. “Not at all,” she shortly replied, “I wanted to write back, but I was laughing so hard, it left me speechless”. Sweet! Rock on! Twain might have lived by nose-bleed standards concerning the saying of “a good thing”, but that’s all the validation I need by a country mile.

    Myth: BUSTED

    It’s not every day one gets to MythBust Mark Twain.

    ———

    Lamott’s section titled “Broccoli” has some good bits.

    You need your broccoli in order to write well. Otherwise you’re going to sit down in the morning and have only your rational mind to guide you. … [discusses coping if it goes badly] … But instead you quit for the day, and you feel defeated and shaken and hopeless, and tomorrow is going to be even harder to face … Remember the scene in Cat Ballou where a very drunk Lee Marvin goes from unconscious to ranting to triumphant to roaring to weeping defeat, and then finally passes out? One of the men watching him says, with real awe, “I never seen a men get through a day so fast.” Don’t let this be you.

    That has punch. Nice job.

    I think a major step in learning to rely on your intuition is to find a usable metaphor for it. Broccoli is so ridiculous that it works for me. A friend says that his intuition is his animal: “My animal thinks this,” he says, or “My animal hates that.” But whatever you come up with needs to suggest a voice you are not trying to control. If you’re lost in the forest, let the horse find the way home. You have to stop directing, because you will only get in the way.

    Denizens and silent poltergeists who inhabit this neck of the woods will know that I’ve often spoken about my “ants” who represent this very thing. My ants are a chorus of tiny voices that I strain to hear. Moreover, they march mercilessly. If I dally over a phrase, I risk losing the whole of the next paragraph (and with it, the “ad hork” invention that only my ants supply).

    ———

    Concerning the book as a whole, the key phrase from that passage is “defeated and shaken and hopeless”. There are three promotional blurbs on the back cover, with the following promotional payloads: “hilarious”, “hilarious”, and “sidesplittingly funny”. (This breaks a rule from one of the other books about doubling-down on a single compliment.) In this book “defeated” and “hilarious” smooch in the woods incessantly: most of this book reads like Erma Bombeck on the rag and off the fag shortly after divorcing Alvy Singer. Lamott hails from the “writing = angst” envy–elation emotional roller coaster.

    I know some very great writers, writers who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her.

    I left off a self-effacing parenthetical which puts a different spin on her acrid Allah attribution, but still, her neurotic bombast comes across.

    Now for a mildly uncomfortable confession: at this juncture I very much wanted to know less about Lamott’s angst and more about the “wildly enthusiastic and confident” biddy no-one in Lamott’s writing circle particularly fancies. I’m all set to emulate the exception who possesses the steady tiller and keel. Hand me the keys!

    Lamott sets her supporting cast in the shadows once again in a scene where she has borrowed money to fly to New York for what she believes is the final edit on her great masterpiece only to have her editor tell her that “I am so, so sorry, but it still doesn’t work.”

    She reacts well to Frost and Rejection in New York City.

    Luckily, I was still drinking at the time. … slammed down a dozen social drinks with them … [cab ride] … few hundred more drinks … the merest bit of cocaine—actually I began to resemble an anteater at one point. … [liquor store] … half-pint of Irish whiskey … [back to house] … social slugs of Bushmills straight from the bottle until I passed out.

    Miraculously, she awakens in a functional rage, calls up her editor at his home and demands to come over; he says, very tentatively, “Okay”.

    I began to stalk around his living room, like a trial lawyer making her case to the jury, explaining various aspects of the book, some of which, in my desire not to appear too obvious, I had forgotten to put down at all. … twenty-eight years old, savagely hung over, feeling like I was about to die … Words were just pouring out of me, and when I was done, he looked at me, and said, “Thank you.”

    Given the build-up, the ending is clear: Second Chance, Great Repair, Biggest Accomplishment. What I wanted to know was more about her stoic, punishment-glutton editor, whose role in these scenes is conveyed by “sorry”, “okay” and “thank you”. We couldn’t have learned less about this man had these scenes been authored by Norma Desmond.

    By the way, I am aware that this is also one of my own known faults. When I become overly concerned about repeating myself, I definitely shade into an oblique register. Mea culpa.

    On mood, I’m usually having a great time when I’m writing, even when I’m writing a train wreck. Some train wrecks suck, some trains wrecks are awesome. That’s my view of the matter.

    ———

    This book also contains a paean to the SF Giants (section “Letters”), which runs to a full page and is far too long to quote. It made me think of Lowetide’s mark on the world more than anything else I’ve read.

    ———

    This bit is not related to this book as such, though it’s in the same register, so I might as well tack it on.

    I gained an insight about myself the other day as a result of reading all these books about the writing life. To a certain degree, I feed off uncertainty. If I checked back to see what responses my posts were receiving, then I would know where I stand, socially. It took me a long time to realize that I find it useful not to know, e.g., whether Woodguy hates me or not. I did see some banter on a recent thread which suggests that Woodguy hasn’t lost his sense of humour on matters typographical. That’s how I prefer it: to surmise the aftermath through a lens cap slathered in Vaseline. (Bonus joke for the careful reader.)

    Because I rarely partake in the reaction to my posts (supposing, again, that there is any) when I sit down to write I’m plagued with multiple Woodguys: one who appreciates my input, one who hates me, and one who doesn’t give a shit either way. Like John Nash—after he had the drop on his disease—I’m pretty sure there aren’t three whole Woodguys standing in front of me, but I have to dig pretty deep inside myself to decide which of these Woodguys I really believe in (it could be more than one, if the real Woodguy renders a split decision). Did I go too far? The question redounds in my personal echo chamber until it strikes bone; it hangs there until I can read off those portions of the Golden Rule etched in Braille on my own intestines. That’s what keeps me honest (supposing, again, that I am honest). Writing on the edge bends a knee neither to permission nor forgiveness—there’s some mysterious third way.

    This isn’t angst. It’s an entirely different source of tension.

    What mainly keeps me out of trouble (supposing …) is that I choose my risks carefully, so that I’m fully alive to the peril. That’s what matters. This is, however, a delicate needle, one that a sour word after the fact can easily bend.

    The other delicate noodle is performance: does the piece come out well? This is the noodle where praise rather than criticism wreaks the most damage. Nothing so cauterises a working funny bone as having someone tell you your last effort was frickin’ hilarious—especially after your pancreas has spooged out an entire quart of insulin and floated off to cloud nine. Lamott addresses this hazard at some length.

    Like most personal epiphanies, this one arrived as a wriggling, sashimi-platter shopping basket, so that’s all for now.

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