5 April 2018

Talking Books with NBL Point Guard Horace Wormely

On Tuesday, December 19th, my boyfriend and I interviewed Horace Wormely, one of our favourite players from our city's National Basketball League team. Pasadena, California, native Wormely is a point guard for the Saint John Riptide and has quickly become a fan favourite not just for his style of play, but also for his charming persona and great Twitter presence.

I have always wanted to interview Wormely because he is an AVID reader. He is always tweeting about dystopian novels and whatever else he is carrying around at practice. You can listen to our full interview here where we talk about basketball in Canada, the NBA, movies, books, and music.

I was on an all-time high the entire next day because my love of basketball had fully collided with my love of books. Imagine my excitement that I got to talk about JOAN DIDION, the love of my life, with one of my favourite basketball players?!?

I have condensed and transcribed the interview to highlight our discussion about books.

Meghan Hayes: I thought of you because I was reading a piece in The Guardian from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he was saying professional athletes get a lot of time to read. Do you think this is true? And do you find you've had a lot of time before practice to read?

Horace Wormely: We have so much down time. And that's how you get in trouble. And it's also how you, as players, advance. It's really what you do with the time you spend away from basketball. I guess coming from the States, I know Europe is a little bit different, but in the States and Canada in high school and college there's a schedule set for you. And so when you become a professional, that schedule, it's really on you to create for yourself. And you go from two hours of practice, an hour of weights, class, breakfast, study group, more practice, it's very strict stuff. Then you drop to just two hours of practice, what do you do with the rest of that time? So for me, I've been able to have really good mentors and teammates. I had really good culture and a support system to feed me books and really interesting things to grow and fill my time and I'm thankful for that.

MH: Are you reading anything right now?

HW: Yeah, yeah! I'm reading Moxyland [by Lauren Beukes], I'm a huge fan of dystopian novels, one of my favourites is 1984 [by George Orwell]. I ended the beginning of this year reading Piano Player by Kurt Vonnegut. I just love dystopian novels so Moxyland is in that vain. 

Oh, another one, Ready Player One [by Ernest Cline]. Spielberg is actually making it into a movie. I read that one last season. I've just kept this theme going with dystopian novels. So, Moxyland, the book is set in 2019 so it's not too far in the future, but it's in South Africa and it's about these young renegades, revolutionaries trying to overthrow this big brother of a government who is trying to control them through technology. So no one can pull away from their phones, which is great cause it's kind of where we're at. Not to give too much of the book away but Moxyland is really, really cool. 

MH: Ok I definitely wrote it down, and I know last year you were tweeting about Children of Men [by PD James]. You were a really big fan. 

HW: Oh man, PD James. That was an excellent book. 

photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrd

MH: So what is it about, science fiction? It seems like maybe there's a theme of political unrest? Or...?

HW: I think that there is so much with that setting and plot, so much humanity to be pulled out of it. I think against the backdrop of, and maybe this is my poet-heart speaking, but there's so much beauty for me and I get to see it set against an ugly frame. The framing of the photo or the picture doesn't really change the picture exactly, but I guess the juxtaposition of the two allows me to kind of see the beauty and it pulls out the beauty within humanity, how people of different walks of life, different socioeconomic backgrounds, difference races, different whatevers can still come together and there's still this common interest. So I always find that thread.

For me, 1984 was really big because it ended up after the second or third time I read it that I started to see it as a love story. And that's what it became for me. The same thing happened for Children of Men. It ended up being this love story, maybe not between man and woman, but just for mankind. You start to appreciate, well, 'maybe we can't have children anymore', so if we can't have children anymore we value life differently. It just gives you that opportunity to kind of, step away from the book, go back to reality and now I look at a child that may pass me by differently. You know, you look at immigration differently. You look at all these different issues with a new set of eyes. So I enjoy it for that reason. 

MH: I know, I have a lot of friends who are standoffish towards science fiction. They see it as a cluster of ten books, all in a series, where nothing is based in reality. But the best science fiction is like Children of Men, or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, the stuff that deals with a really specific human issue but there's a little bit of reality that's not what's going on right now.

Ben Silcox: It's funny, you get people really angry about those books but then you take examples like Children of Men and Never Let Me Go, and both are super acclaimed films. Did you see Children of Men?

HW: I did. I watched it after [reading it] and I hated it. When you read the book, maybe I should have given it some space. Right after I finished the book I watched the movie, but they left out the main part! I forget the character's name but when he got beat, I was like 'ahh that was my part!'... I was emotionally attached to it and they took it out. So I said, 'forget this movie'... but I'll watch it again. *laughter*

MH: Is that a trend though? I know a lot of big time readers, and it's always a thing you know, do you enjoy the movie after you read the book? They can take a little bit of leeway and I try to think of it like the movie is now a different thing, but do you find that happens? Do you read the book and you'll always kind of favour the book more?

HW: It's true for me. It has to be one or the other. So I wanted to go back and read Game of Thrones [by George R. R. Martin], I watched it, loved it, and I wanted to go back and read the book but my friends were like 'uhh you're gonna be upset, cause we're upset watching the show.' So I find for me it is one or the other, I have to pick movie, show, or book. Otherwise I'm frustrated. The book is usually better because I get to create my own thing. 

photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrde

MH: So from books, have you read Joan Didion yet? I know you've tweeted about it. 


Not yet eh? (He's shaking his head no.)

HW: I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I have a really long list on my phone of books that I have to buy and read, and she is top of the list. I did get a chance to watch her doc on Netflix.

MH: Any first impressions?

HW: Oh man I love her. Her look is really dainty, but she's fierce. And I was like, 'oh man that's me'! *laughter* So I got attached to her instantly. I'm excited to read her books.

MH: I'm a really big Joan Didion fan, so when I saw you tweet about her I was like 'ahhh! Riptide and Joan Didion colliding'!!

HW: My mom, she loved Joan Didion. She suggested it, that's why I originally tweeted it. And when you replied I was like 'mom look' and she was like 'yeah she knows what she's talking about.' So shout out to mom. Oh my god I'm not going to be able to go home. 


MH: It's interesting though because she writes a lot about California so I think you'll like her. That's probably how your mom heard of her too. She grew up in Sacramento and writes a lot about California. 

HW: Especially the beach and Venice right? From what I've heard...

MH: Yes... So going back again to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... a lot of reading, but also obviously he does a lot of writing. He's written a lot of books. I knew he wrote a lot of non-fiction about his own life, I didn't realize he wrote stuff about like Sherlock Holmes' brother...

HW: I didn't know that.

MH: Yes!

BS: It's like Sherlock Holmes fanfic.


HW: He's an amazing human being. 

MH: But you write a lot too, don't you?

HW: I do. I write a lot. Actually I'm working on a book. It's indirectly my autobiography, if you will. A little bit. You'll find common little threads or nuggets of just things I kind of went through. I don't necessarily want to talk about me, I think that's probably the introvert in me a little bit, but I did want to get across this intersection of basketball with life. And how ugly basketball can be sometimes, but then how beautiful it can be in the midst of all the ugliness. 

There's a lot of parallels between, like let's say, labour relations and trying to develop a union. In basketball we can use an international union, so... I try to just draw those parallels out because a lot of the language that we communicate through in basketball, I found myself being able to use when I couldn't speak or didn't understand Spanish, or German, or Mandarin ... when I was playing in all these places. The language we speak through and that I was able to learn the quickest and most simply was basketball.

So you learn how to pronounce 'screen' in these languages. Those are the first words I learned in these different languages, basketball terms. That kind of generated the idea for this parallel idea I guess. Trying to intersect the parallels if you will, between basketball. Using this 'basketball' language but also talking about the real world, real life, meaningful things.

So like, I'm trying to do it in essay form. Kind of like my rap album. *laughs* That's what it feels like to me. Just putting together track lists of songs that have the same kind of theme, but different little topics. My goal now is to just try and write twenty-five by August 2018, which is kind of outlandish though but I'll shoot for the stars. From there, compile them, and give them to a few of my mentors to see what they think. 

photo from Wormely's Twitter @pointgvrd

MH: Do you keep a notebook with you?

HW: Oh yeah, I write everywhere I possibly can. So there are pieces of essays on my phone, the track list if you will is on my phone, my little moleskin, my journal has pieces of essays in them. And I keep a lot of things on Medium, it's a platform that I use cause it helps. I can be on my phone and when I want to put it into a finished format I can just hop onto Medium and put it in there. That's my writing process. 

MH: You're going to love Joan Didion.

HW: Oh yeah?

MH: She writes a lot about process.

Wormely (4) playing for the Saint John Riptide in the NBL. Photo by Michael Robinson. 

You can follow Wormely on Twitter here! He is constantly posting photos of recent reads or purchases.

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