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A. Craig Copetas

A. Craig Copetas is a former editor of Esquire and is now European Editor of the Washington magazine Regardie’s. He is the author of Bear Hunting with the Politburo.

Babe-Ruthing

A. Craig Copetas, 19 October 1995

In the years leading up to the American Revolution and well beyond the War of 1812 Americans living in the New York area made no secret of their allegiance to England. New York’s aristocratic sympathy – cultural, commercial and religious – was not shared in Massachusetts, the home of a growing Irish population and of the Boston Tea Party. These pro and anti-Tory emotions often spilled onto the playing field, which is one of the reasons the game of baseball in 1858 boasted two sets of codified regulations. New York Rules stipulated that ‘a player shall be out, if at any time when off a base he shall be touched by the ball in the hands of an adversary.’ But in Massachusetts, where those Tory-lovers who played baseball were viewed with disdain, umpires allowed fielders to throw the ball hard at a runner in order to get him out of the game, usually on a blooded stretcher. ‘The first professional English cricket team that came to this country used to practise near us, and they used to come over and watch our game occasionally,’ reads one 19th-century account of the transatlantic battle between England’s haughty Essex men and America’s rough and tumble Boys of Summer. ‘They rather turned up their noses at it, and thought it tame sport, until we invited them to try it.’’

Who’s Got the Moxie?

A. Craig Copetas, 23 March 1995

The North Country is the burial ground for America’s myths. So maybe it’s not surprising that there are more good writers per square mile in Montana and Idaho than anywhere else in the States. The irony is that the writers themselves are often obscured by the area’s remoteness from the rest of the country. Montana and Idaho took off in the late Sixties, when real estate was cheap, plentiful and luring the likes of Tom McGuane, Tim Cahill, Jeff Bridges, Peter Fonda and the late Seymor Lawrence. Frontier towns like Livingston and Boulder Creek are today about as close as you can get to a nursing home for Sixties’ veterans and survivors of the more recent Hollywood filmscript wars – complete with a beanery in nearby Bozeman, owned and operated by the actress Glenn Close. Yet the North Country has never tried to be fashionable. If Aspen is all plastic surgery and cholesterol-free restaurants, the North Country is veterinarians and iron skillets.’

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

Bill Clinton – cooing and eager – is arguing that the watermelon is not a parasite. It is New York, America, and the year is 1968 or 1969. We are having cocktails, the Southern gentleman’s expression for raw liquor sprayed with vermouth, at Elaine’s Restaurant, or perhaps it’s the home of Jean Stein, the wealthy and stunningly attractive daughter of the chairman of the board of the Music Corporation of America. Money and beauty, as ever, are important, but power and greed have yet to replace ideas and aspirations in the popular currency. It would take many more years, and boxcar loads of wine and cheese and testimony in front of the United States Congress, to determine just how those dreams had been deferred.’

Diary: Yaaaggghhhh

A. Craig Copetas, 25 June 1992

McEwan, I tried to call you on the radio telephone, when our old flatmate, John Webb, fell overboard in a gale off the coast of Long Island a few years ago and was nearly swept south to Bermuda. But the old Oxford number had been disconnected, and your publisher told me that you were ‘indisputably a hugely important literary phenomenon’ and not taking any calls. Jonathan Cape’s posture is completely understandable given the current funeral atmosphere in England, but the psychic ramifications of Black Dogs are global in reach, and people we know are calling with questions. This is the reason the London Review has made contact, and why I’m sitting in a seedy hotel room in Uzbekistan writing about Black Dogs, instead of filing a report on the gunfire outside my window. Which is getting closer, by the way.

Hormone Wars

A. Craig Copetas, 23 April 1992

A few hours before the Washington Redskins consummately humiliated the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 Superbowl, I unfortunately asked a fellow American, an editor who has lived in Paris for ten years, to join a group of men and women for a beer, place a few bets, and watch the game with us live on Canal+. ‘Football is a most distasteful sport,’ sneered the American expatriate. ‘The game has no place in my life.’

When the going gets weird

A. Craig Copetas, 19 December 1991

The winter of 1978 is full of strange and apocalyptic memories now. Doc and I were weird-betting a college basketball game in the gentrified servants’ quarters of a large Georgetown estate house that December. Magic Johnson was playing for Michigan that Saturday night and I’d gambled that three successive baskets would be made by players with odd-numbered jerseys. I was ahead a few bucks when the Ohio State centre put a savage elbow into Magic’s young chin and Doc’s screams of ‘foul’ were interrupted by the sight of a White House adviser about to break open a vial of cocaine. Doc slapped me on the shoulder and muttered ‘Jeeesus’ – a sure sign of impending doom.’

Letter

Yaaaggghhhh

25 June 1992

Craig Copetas writes: Is it not amazing how, as our generation gets older, our perceptions of the past diverge? I am grateful that the Ian McEwan I knew let me live in the back room at West Parade for as long as I did. I am sorry, however, that he has lost his sense of humour.

Year One

John Lloyd, 30 January 1992

The Government of Russia has begun the year badly, even ominously. The flailing impotence of Mikhail Gorbachev has been replaced by Boris Yeltsin’s control by stealth. Gorbachev was open...

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