The Observer: David Duchovny’s New Baseball Novel Is Pretty Good, Dammit

By Ken Kurson | April 12, 2016

Do you want to see eyes roll? Mention an actor whose desire to be taken seriously has led him to write a novel. It would be an unendurable cliché in David Duchovny’s case except that Bucky F*cking Dent, his new novel about baseball and fathers, is so f*cking good.

The book tells the late 70s era story of Ted Fullilove, who is squandering his Ivy League education by vending peanuts at Yankee Stadium while he struggles to write the Great American Novel. When Ted learns that his father, Marty, is dying of lung cancer, he moves back into his childhood home to ease Marty’s transition to the great beyond and also repair the damage that years of absenteeism have wrought. The hook is that Marty suffers when the Red Sox lose so Ted engineers a scheme, aided by the dishy Grateful Dead-tattooed Mariana, by which the Red Sox appear to erase the curse of the Bambino and win all of their closing games in 1978 (instead of, as all New Yorkers deliciously remember, choke down the stretch, with the title Yankee providing the death blow).

If it’s annoying that Mr. Duchovny, who’s already a phenomenally successful and painfully good-looking actor is also a funny and natural writer – his last book, the animal allegory Holy Cow, also earned high praise from skeptical critics—then at least give him some points for self-awareness. Like his character in Californication, Mr. Duchovny knows how he comes off and doesn’t mind if you resent him. He just wants a fair shake.

Mr. Duchovny spoke to the Observer about writing, acting and the shocking demise of the wondrous Garry Shandling.

As I was reading this book and preparing to interview you, I thought of a scene in Californication where your character is giving a reading and the audience kind of boos the Hollywood figure who enters and you say, ‘my people.’ I wonder if that’s a sense of yourself that you have, a sort of a literary-minded guy that these really are your people.

I think maybe so. I mean obviously that was more from the mind of Tom Kapinos who wrote and created the show, and I think he would think of himself more as a literary person than as a Hollywood person, but I think you’re right for me as well. I grew up reading. I grew up being taught and told that books were a way to become more fully yourself and to become an adult. My father was a writer. My father published his first novel when he was 72. But when I was growing up he identified himself as a writer, even though he had a 9 to 5 job to support the family. So it was always part of my life and I would say, you know whenever I had to fill out those forms in school that asked you what you’re going to be I would always put writer, whatever that meant. I would put lawyer too because it seemed like they made decent money. It was always kind of just part of my identity, so when I finally got to it the last couple of years and people would ask me, “Is it weird to be thought of as a writer?’ I would be like no, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer who is doing some acting.

The last time I saw you in person was at Comic-Con when the X-Files was being rebooted and you and Chris Carter were on a panel. I felt such a tenderness toward these kids who really seemed like mostly outsiders wherever they live and they get to kind of come together. Your writing has a little bit of that feel. This guy Ted can’t find himself, so talk to me about how strongly you identify with your character.

I think I probably fit in better growing up than Ted does in the book, but I think if you’re a writer, that means that you’re an observer. You observe people, and that means that you have a mind that wants to do that. You have a mind that wants to observe more than it wants to engage in many ways. And you’re already outside because you’re looking in. That’s the nature of someone who desires to write. So I think temperamentally I’ve always been an observer, even though it might appear from the outside that I’m active and being included.

Read the full interview here.