Because Two Posts (and Wins) are Better than One
April 11, 2007
In honour of the Philadelphia Phillies second victory of the season (April truly is the cruelest month….btw, one of the best lectures I ever attended as an undergraduate featured a great aside about cultural relativism and the understanding of Poetry. The test case was “April is the cruelest month” which is ironic in climes like England and America, but rings too true in rainy parts of Africa), I’ve decided to post a list of my favourite baseball novels.
1) The Natural, Malamud. A perfectly crafted piece of fiction with surprising emotional depth and tenderness. Malamud wonderfully recasts the legends of King Arthur in telling his Baseball epic, turning the Baseball diamond into a mythic site for chivalrous battles in a way that doesn’t come off as trite. The legends of king Arthur were actually quite popular in Yiddish literature, and I wonder if Malamud’s reinvention of the Arthurian myths was facilitated by his knowledge of the Yiddish literary tradition. While we usually don’t think of Malamud as a Yiddish author, his tombstone calls him “der bal ha-mayses,” the storyteller. Its interesting to speculate. Any cross-cultural intertextuality would only add to this already rich and nuanced book. Also not a bad movie.
2) The Universal Baseball Association, Coover. One of the strangest books you’ll ever read about Baseball. Probably because it’s “really” about God, religion, the nature of evil, randomness, storytelling, and interpersonal dynamics. Plus its Roobert Coover, so the book will alternate between making no sense and being perfectly written and hilarious.
3) The Celebrant, Eric Rolfe Greenberg. A delicate portrait of the relationship between a player and a fan, in a simpler, more genteel time. It’s also a terrific story of immigration to America and Americanization. Beautifully written.
4) The Great American Novel, Roth. One of the best “failures” I’ve ever read. The introduction is a great piece of literature, madly comic and satiric although with enough depth to be read as a proper narrative. And then the book DISINTEGRATES. It becomes a bizarre collection of scenes with almost no purpose. All the energy of the start is just lost, picked up for a scant moment only to disintegrate again. I almost wonder if Roth was trying to write a bad novel.
And, lastly, a dishonourable mention: Michael Chabon’s Summerland. As I said earlier, I haven’t enjoyed anything since K&K. Summerland is basically a ten cent version of The Phantom Tollbooth. If that’s your thing, go for it.