Saturday, May 03, 2008

Five best: baseball novels

Nicholas Dawidoff's books include The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg and the newly released The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness, and Baseball.

He named a five best list of "Baseball Fiction For the Prose Hall of Fame" for the Wall Street Journal.

One classic novel on his list:
The Natural
by Bernard Malamud
Harcourt, Brace, 1952

"The Natural" is a great American novel, undervalued because people think of it as that lower form, a sports book. Bernard Malamud, himself an undervalued writer, said that he "threw everything in" to this allegorical account of Roy Hobbs, the gifted and tragic young phenom who "coulda been a king." Instead, he ends up part Ulysses, part Shoeless Joe Jackson. I was raised by a schoolteacher who said that "The Natural" explodes the fantasy of American innocence with more art and moral subtlety than "The Great Gatsby." Back then, my boat sailed hard against that current. Older now, I read these two novels about the bitter yearning to relive a shimmering past and I see how she could have thought so.
Read about the book that topped Dawidoff's list.

--Marshal Zeringue