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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Art of the Pitch
There are more novels written about the sport of baseball than any other sport. The structure of this timeless game lends itself well to exploring some of fiction's most common themes: death, love, friendship, honor, and identity. These novels that feature baseball use the sport to explore other challenges in the lives of the characters, as well as providing an opportunity for some base-stealing, bat-cracking, super-fly fielding action and conflict.
Chabon, Michael.Summerland.In the Summerland of Clam Island, Washington it never rains, thus, baseball is played year-round and inspires almost religious devotion among its residents, except for one, Ethan Feld. Ethan plays for the local team and is the worst player they've ever seen, and freely admits it. Yet, Ethan is the only person on the island who will be able to save the magical Summerland ball field and its threatened unseen natives, the ferishers, from the wily spirit-god, Coyote. Full of magical flights of fancy in air-light dirigibles, fantastic creatures such as the willful Spider Ann, the motherly beast Taffy, and a rag-tag team of fairy-tale ballplayers, it all depends on the crack of a bat and a ball in a glove if all the worlds are to remain in peaceful balance. Lots of baseball lore mixed with legends from Native American and other traditional sources.
Harbach, Chad.The Art of Fielding. At Westish College in Wisconsin, the baseball team is hoping to capture a national championship. Henry Skrimshander and Mike Schwartz, idolized by the younger players, bring their enormous talent to the field along with their personal hopes and expectations. With Zen-like meditations on the art of baseball, complex interpersonal relationships, and unexpected slumps, this novel covers the full range of what can happen in life -- and baseball.
Lupica, Mike.Wild Pitch.One of the great things about baseball is that eventually, a player gets a second chance. When "Showtime" Charlie Stoddard's second chance finds him, he's a washed-up, girl-chasing boozehound who signs baseball cards for kids who ask him who he used to be. With the help of an unorthodox therapist named Chang, Charlie believes he may have his pitching arm back, and what a coincidence! The Red Sox need a pitcher! Charlie hopes to turn his life around, get back with his ex-wife, reconnect with his son, who will not acknowledge Charlie's existence, and, maybe, earn a berth at Cooperstown.
Parker, Robert B.Double Play.The Grand Master of Mystery turns his attention to his lifelong love of baseball in a tense novel about Jackie Robinson's first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Dodger manager Branch Rickey knows history is unfolding, but he's more interested in keeping Robinson healthy enough to take the field. Rickey hires WWI veteran Joseph Burke to guard Robinson, and the two men find themselves involved in a plot to assassinate them both. Robinson has more to protect than his life — he has a career and family. Burke has lost the only thing he cares about and his life is secondary. Full of colorful supporting characters, both fictitious and real, rapid dialogue, and a suspenseful pace, Parker inserts himself into the story by recalling the summer of 1947 and the impact this historic athletic moment had on his own life.