The “331 Innings” Interview
with Kam Williams
Author Expounds on Latest Labor of Love
Peter Brav is not much of a baseball player but he’s written three novels where the diamond provides a setting for triumph over adversity in one way or another. Sneaking In (set during the 1999 Yankees championship season), The Other Side Of Losing (set during a Chicago Cubs championship season) and now 331 Innings (set in a small Nebraska town). Add in Zappy I’m Not, a memoir of a cranky middle-aged man reincarnated as a small dog, and you have a literary celebration of all manner of admirable underdogs.
Peter has written several plays including South Beach, African Violet, Later, The Rub, Good Till Cancelled, and Trump Burger which have all been performed in staged readings. A a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School, he resides in Princeton, New Jersey with wife Janet and three Papillons.
Kam Williams: Hi Peter, thanks for the interview.
Peter Brav: Totally my pleasure, Kam.
KW: What inspired you to write 331 Innings?
PB:Well, first of all, it’s not a baseball book. That plays a very small part of it. It covers ground I’ve become comfortable with. Trying to understand why we’re all here for such a relatively short time and yet make it harder on each other and ourselves than it should be. I was thinking about bullying and war, specifically, and how they’re linked. And what a better world we’d have, if we could minimize both of them.
KW: How would you describe the novel in 25 words or less?
PB: It’s a pretty powerful 16th year in the life of John Schram, an undersized, underappreciated underdog. Anger’s getting the best of him and he’s most certainly heading in the wrong direction. Hopefully, he’s going to turn things around before it’s too late.
KW: Was the book’s narrator, Jack Schram, based on a real-life person?
PB: John’s Uncle Jack is a fictional 84 year-old lifelong Nebraskan. But Jack’s an amalgam of many older people I’ve met, whether they be relatives or folks at my father’s assisted living center. Like Jack, they’ve made livings, raised families, fought in wars, and watched loved ones and friends pass on. And if they’re like Jack, they marvel at how the younger generations around them keep making the same mistakes they did. I’ve always felt comfortable with older people, perhaps an old soul and all that. It remains to be seen whether that continues now that I’m getting there more rapidly than I’d like.
KW: How much research did you have to do in order to set the story in Nebraska?
PB: I drove through Nebraska four years ago and spent a wonderful week in Lincoln. I know there are significant differences from the Northeast and they’re highlighted on a daily basis on CNN with red and blue colors. But for my time there, on a closeup and personal level, I encountered nothing but personal warmth. And beautiful landscapes. The story wrote itself when I got back.
KW: What message do you want readers to take away from the novel?
PB: Well, some of what I just alluded to. We’ve got no shortage of underdogs in this world, battling whatever adversity comes their way to try and make a good life for themselves and others. What we could use a little more of is leaders, let’s call them overdogs, with a conscience. And that’s pretty much what happens near the end of the novel. Something brings the high school in-crowd and outcasts together, for one really long game anyway, and the rest of the world comes along for the ride. In my 2009 Chicago Cubs fantasy, The Other Side of Losing, I had a very protracted week-long rain delay during the World Series where people come together. This is a bit of the same thing, taking a break from “winning” to maybe show a little love.
KW: Are you already working on your next opus?
PB: Well, as you know, this lawyering thing keeps getting in the way, especially in the spring and summer. But I’ve finished a play called Propriety I’m hopeful about and I’ve started a new play set in the pre-war tumult of the late Thirties.
KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
PB: Great question, Troy. I wish I had more time to read but I’m getting better. I’ll mention two. The Berlin Boxing Club, a great young adult novel by Robert Sharenow.
And I’m just finishing War Against War, a terrific nonfiction book about the years before World War I by Michael Kazin.
KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
PB: Thanks, Ling-Ju. My beloved mother Adele, a survivor of the Holocaust who passed away two years ago, schlepping my sister and me on subways to see a matinee of Carousel in Manhattan. I believe I was 4 years-old.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
PB: Cooking’s never been one of my strong suits, Kam. But my kids would say my scrambled eggs are perfectly edible.
KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?
PB: Hi, Craig. My night dreams are gone shortly after I wake up. There are nights I’m pretty dream-prolific, too. But my daydreams hang around forever; they’re in 331 Innings.
KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?
PB: That’s such a good question, Sherry, and I want you to know I learned it very early on. It’s to evaluate everyone I meet on the basis of individual character only. No wealth, race, religion, nationality, age, popularity considerations, or anything else. And I’ve been the beneficiary of that lesson, with a diverse group of friends enriching my life on a daily basis.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
PB: I don’t know, give me a minute, and I’ll get back to you with a quite pained response. I see someone super blessed to have had the love and encouragement of my incredible wife Janet and the rest of my
family and friends.
KW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
PB: I’m going to assume you mean intentionally. Most of the “crazy” things I did only look that way with hindsight. But I’d say naively taking my MGB without snow tires into the mountains of Vermont in the winter of 1981 ranks right up there.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
PB: For the powers that be throughout the world to have a collective Moment of Zen, to borrow from Jon Stewart, in which they realize they have more power and wealth than could be consumed in multiple lifetimes. And then actually do something about it to reduce war, oppression, inequity, ignorance, and the planet’s deterioration. It shouldn’t take the arrival of a worse species as happened in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! to bring people together.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
PB: That’s tough since most of us will be remembered by very few. But I hope it’s for more than those scrambled eggs.
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
PB: The usual I’m sure. Five dollars and a completely illegible idea for a new novel scrawled on a napkin.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Peter, and best of luck with the book.
PB: Thank you, Kam, I hope folks enjoy it. Writing it was a joy for me.
To order a copy of 331 Innings, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1544237944/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20