The Midnight Library by Matt Haig


1990 Topps A. Bartlett Giamatti

The Midnight Library is a bit like It’s a Wonderful Life with a nod to quantum physics. The book opens with Nora unhappy with her life and the choices she’s made, and she decides to end her life. Rather than dying, she finds herself in the midnight library, a place where each book allows her to live a different life that diverges from her root life based on choices she might have made. Following the quantum physics idea that each universe exists simultaneously, Nora is able to live an endless number of alternate experiences. Of the ones we’re exposed to, most are in and around London, only one takes place in America, and none seem to have any relationship to baseball.

So I went with A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball who was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame by naming part of the museum’s library the Giamatti Research Center. Giamatti was the shortest tenured commissioner in league history, serving just 154 days before dying of a heart attack while on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. His impact as commissioner has been outsized in relation to its length, however. Giamatti oversaw the investigation into Pete Rose’s betting scandal, ultimately convincing Rose to voluntarily accept a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list. Giamatti’s sudden death just eight days after the announcement allowed Rose to make a case that there was an understanding that he would be reinstated after a year when eligible to appeal the suspension, but Giamatti said at the time “There is absolutely no deal for reinstatement. That is exactly what we did not agree to in terms of a fixed number of years.” As the true extent of Rose’s gambling has become clear over the years, it’s also become more clear that Giamatti was in fact more lenient than harsh in his treatment of Rose, suspending him indefinitely but also not making a formal finding on the extent of his gambling.

A. Bartlett Giamatti was a professor of English Renaissance literature at Yale specializing in Edmund Spenser, whose Faerie Queene is mentioned in Matt Haig’s other book, How to Stop Time (more on that soon). His connection to English literature, a library, and Edmund Spenser made him feel like an appropriate bookmark choice. But there’s also one more aspect to consider. Nora gets to inhabit many different lives and experiences, much as Giamatti’s son Paul has been able to live many different lives in his acting career. Paul Giamatti has said he’s not much of a baseball fan, although he does enjoy sports movies, and he played a sports psychologist in The Phenom.

It’s a bit disappointing, and surprising, that Paul Giamatti doesn’t have the same fondness for the game as his father. Angelo Bartlett famously said of baseball: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” How does that kind of passion not get passed down?

Despite Paul’s indifference to the game, I’ve enjoyed him as an actor, and here are my favorite Paul Giamatti shows and movies in reverse order (keeping in mind there are so many I haven’t seen)

5. Straight Outta Compton

4. Donnie Brasco

3. Billions

2. Win Win

  1. Cinderella Man (This is one of the most underrated movies in history)

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