Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman John Baal, “The Babe Ruth of the Big House,” who never hit a homerun sober. If you’ve never heard of them—or of the Ruppert Mundy’s, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history—it’s because of the Communist plot and the capitalist scandal that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.
In this ribald, richly imagined, and wickedly satiric novel, Philip Roth turns baseball’s status as national pastime and myth into the occasion for unfettered picaresque farce, replete with heroism, perfidy, ebullient wordplay, and a cast of characters that includes the House Un-American Activities Committee.
©1995 Phillip Roth (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Roth is better than he's ever been before....The prose is electric." (The Atlantic)
"Shameless comic extravagance.... Roth gleefully exploits our readiness to let baseball stand for America itself." (The New York Times)
"Roth invents baseball anew, as pure slapstick.... An awesome performance." (The New Republic)
I have always viewed Philip Roth as one of the greatest living American authors but Roth must have been on crack cocaine when he wrote this book many years ago. Even the greatest authors sometime write a stinker and this is Roth's. Ouch!
I'm guessing Roth took the theme of baseball as metaphor for life and ran with it. This is, basically, the story of an absurd baseball team and the absurd characters who play for it. The structure is episodic and there's no central protagonist. The writing's clever, but, as mentioned in the headline, one expects (and almost demands more) from Philip Roth. If this were the thesis of an MFA student, I think I'd have rated it higher. Alas, this is the work of a major author well into his writing career. I'm willing to admit I missed the point of the novel, but to me, this is just a trifling story that is much too long.
On the surface, the book is about baseball. Not the real game, but a game where people throw 150 miles per hour and a one-handed batter hits a home run. In other words, completely unrealistic. I'm not sure how non-fans of the game will react to this. I'd advise people to read other Roth novels first and then come back to this one only if you want to read his complete works.
Because I've never been a baseball fan, I'd been putting this novel off for, yes, decades. When I uncovered my now yellowed and unopened paperback, I thought, "Do I really want to read this?" Then I figured I'd check to see if it was an audiobook and promptly ordered it.
The book itself is not up with the dozen or so "classic Roth" that merit him a long overdue Nobel Prize but certainly should not be overlooked. And, right upfront, you will never, but never, encounter a performance like that of James Daniels. You could never deign to call it a "reading." Daniels virtually becomes each character, dozens of voices, accents, styles. I really didn't want it to end and it was Daniels, more than Roth, that made me feel this way
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