Themes

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291

The concomitant themes of success, fame, football, and failure are magnified in A Fan's Notes through the narrator's revelation of unrealized potential. Measuring his own achievements in sports against those of his father, a hometown football hero, and Frank Gifford, an all-American pro, "Ex" invariably comes up short. While yet...

(The entire section contains 291 words.)

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The concomitant themes of success, fame, football, and failure are magnified in A Fan's Notes through the narrator's revelation of unrealized potential. Measuring his own achievements in sports against those of his father, a hometown football hero, and Frank Gifford, an all-American pro, "Ex" invariably comes up short. While yet a student at USC, he learns the horrors of anonymity even as his classmate, Gifford, rides a rising star. After graduation, the narrator seeks to be deemed a writer of fiction, a legend in the manner of Mailer, Capote, Fitzgerald and, here again, Exley knows no success. He is anxious to attain acclaim among the literati in New York City, but the "city that never sleeps" greets Exley with only indifference.

A Fan's Notes is a romantic book, a book about shattered dreams, despair, and the shame that can accompany an inability to fulfill a preconceived sense of self. In this novel, Exley writes: "Other men might inherit from their fathers a head for figures, a gold pocket watch all encrusted with the oxidized green of age, or an eternally astonished expression; from mine I acquired this need to have my name whispered in reverential tones ... it was my destiny — unlike that of my father, whose fate it was to hear the roar of the crowd — to sit in the stands with most men and acclaim others. It was my fate, my destiny, my end, to be a fan."

An ancillary theme in A Fan's Notes concerns the correspondence between physical prowess/attractiveness/success/money/masculinity on the one hand, and awkwardness/madness/ poverty/femininity, on the other. Despite his seeming desire to explode the "myth" of American equal opportunity, Exley, ironically, writes a book (about failing) that is irrefutably successful.

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