It Looked Like Forever

Harris, Mark. It Looked Like Forever. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1979.

This is the last Henry Wiggen story. This time when we meet up with Henry, he is a flagging veteran, just let go as lefty pitcher for the New York Mammoths. In this day and age he would have been traded years ago, but in the world of Mark Harris, Wiggen hangs on. He still wants to play, even if it means playing in an obscure Japanese town no one can find on a map, or as a relief pitcher anywhere else. However, Henry is now 39 years old with looming health and family issues. His prostate is squawking and his daughter, Hilary, is a screamer; she screams for no apparent reason. Henry has to adjust to being a normal citizen without the perks he once had as a famous athlete (although, interestingly enough, he didn’t know what being famous actually meant). A good portion of the story is Henry trying to get back into baseball while at the same time trying to mollify his screaming daughter.

Two quotes that gave me a chuckle, “Do not read pornographic literature as it causes excitement without gratification, which is bad for the prostate gland” (p 54), and “No, she had 100’s of photos of me including photos of me with my eyes poked out with her hole making machine from the office and photos of me pasted on top of photos of various people on the obituary page of the paper” (p 105).

Reason read: This is the final book in the Henry Wiggen saga. I started it in October in honor of the World Series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Yay Red Sox!

Author fact: Harris wasn’t limited to writing fiction about baseball. He also wrote many nonfictions, including one about Saul Bellow.

Book trivia: The dedication in It Looked Like Forever is cute: “For Henry Adam Harris, who once complained that no book has been dedicated to him…”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” (p 229).


Ticket for a Seamstitch

Harris, Mark. A Ticket For a Seamstitch. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.

When we next meet up with Henry Wiggen he is still pitching for the New York Mammoth baseball team. He is still selling insurance during the off-season. He also still writing (and getting published so his nickname of Henry “Author” Wiggen is getting around). He is now a veteran ballplayer. The plot of Ticket for a Seamstitch is super simple. A seamstress fan of Wiggen writes to ask for a ticket to a game on the fourth of July. Fellow (and very single) teammate, Piney, reads the letter and becomes involved, thinking the girl is a “looker.” He has hopes she might be a potential girlfriend in the future. Only when she arrives, all the way from California, she is not the girl he thought she was and very married Wiggen is left to entertain her. This third book in the series is lighter on the play by play baseball and took me only an afternoon to read.

Lines liked: “The only thing bothered her sleep was in the middle of the night the boys all come banging on her door, wishing to discuss baseball, they said, she said” (p 71), and “What is philosophy to Piney Woods who is off to the moon on a motorcycle with a dream of a perfect and naked girl in his mind, and he will solve it all by science when he gets there” (p 99).

Reason read: This is the third book in the Henry W. Wiggen series. I started the series in October in honor of the world series. Yay Red Sox!

Book trivia: This is the book that put Harris on the map. Although, I’m not sure why. It isn’t as dramatic as the last one. The full title is A Ticket for a Seamstitch, Henry Wiggen but polished for the Printer by Mark Harris.

Author fact: According to the back flap of Ticket for a Seamstitch Harris spent time in New York, California, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado, and New Hampshire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (p 229).


Bang the Drum Slowly

Harris, Mark. Bang the Drum Slowly. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

When we rejoin Henry Wiggen he is now married to Holly and she is three months pregnant. Henry has been in the big leagues for several years and sells insurance on the side. His friend and fellow ballplayer, Bruce Pearson, is dying of cancer. Henry’s life becomes a balance of baseball, family, and friendship as Bruce’s condition is kept a secret from the rest of the team. Henry (“Author” as he is called by his teammates because of his first book) grows up a great deal in this second book. When Bruce’s prostitute girlfriend wants Bruce to change his will Henry must step up to protect his friend. At the same time he becomes a father and a leader of the Mammoths.

After the fact: I can’t stand library books that have been marked up, even if the marking is all in pencil. Ugh.

Line I liked, “I used to pee away money like wine until I got wise to myself” (p 6). Just another example of how Henry grows during this time.

Reason read: October is World Series month for baseball (Yay Red Sox!) and Bang the Drum Slowly is a continuation of the story I started last month.

Author fact: Mark Harris added a new introduction to Bang the Drum Slowly. I think he felt he needed to apologize for the screenplay.

Book trivia: Here’s what it says on the title page: Bang the Drum Slowly by Henry W. Wiggen Certain of His Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris. Interesting.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” (p 229).


Southpaw

Harris, Mark. The Southpaw. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1953

From the very beginning of The Southpaw you know you are in for a treat. Just read the dedication to know why. Then, for further evidence, move on to the “Special Warning To All Readers!!!”
Henry Wiggen is a left handed pitcher reflecting on his career in baseball. Although Henry is obsessed with the game from the very beginning there is a real defining moment when, at sixteen, he replaces his father on the mound during a game against the Clowns. After that, he tries out and is subsequently signed to play for the New York Mammoths. During spring training in Florida Henry learns what its like to be a ballplayer in the big time – competition, women, egos. The only “criticism” I have of the book is that one must love baseball in order to really love The Southpaw. There is a lot of play by play action that can get a little tedious at times.

I’ve read a few reviews where people were bothered by Henry Wiggen’s uneducated manner of speech. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I thought it added realism to the character.

As an aside, I was a little bothered that Mark Harris used a C. Marlowe poem (“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”) but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Quotes to mention, “I was a terrible kid for flinging things at people” (p 25), and “But throwing a baseball and throwing a hand grenade is 2 different things, and I am at my best with 1 and scared to my toes of the other” (p 37), “That first night I had the regular blues, lonesome as the moon and not a soul to talk to” (p 137),

Reason read: The world series is in October.

Book trivia: The version I read boasted of “punctuation freely inserted and spelling greatly improved.” Whatever that means.

Author fact: According to the back of The Southpaw Harris wanted to be a ballplayer but his stature of only 5’7″ deterred him.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (p 229).


Diamond Classics

Shannon, Mike. Diamond Classics: Essays on 100 of the Best Baseball Books Ever Published. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarlane & Company, Inc., 2003.

According to Shannon, one of the major purposes of Diamond Classics is to “function as a sort of “Reader’s Digest” of baseball books” (introduction, p xiii) and he is right. It is jam packed with information about all kinds of books about baseball. I think he covers every type of book from every perspective. The information is extensive. For starters there is the mandatory title, author, publisher, page numbers information (in other words the perfect citation). But it goes further than that. This is a great book for research purposes. Let’s say I wanted to write an essay on the great Jackie Robinson (since there is a new movie coming out about the legend). I could use Shannon’s Diamond Classics to compile all the relevant and useful baseball books that feature Jackie. But, wait! there’s more. Shannon reviews each book for writing style as well as content. He includes the critical reception to the book (if there was one). Shannon is careful to add other baseball books written by the same author. Even his reviews of photography books are descriptive and analytical. He includes books by seasoned sports writers, former athletes and even fans. And, and! And, everything is in alphabetical order…but of course.

Reason read: April 1st marked the first day of the official baseball season. Opening day saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees. Yay.

Author fact: Mike Shannon is a huge baseball fan. You can just tell by the many other books he has written on the subject.

Book trivia: It was cool to see some of the books I’ll be reading for the Challenge reviewed inDiamond Classics.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” (p 230).


October (2009) was…

October has always been my “hang on”” month. It’s the month I hold my breath for while waiting for September to release me. This October was no different. It started with a trip to Maine to see West Coast family (and a great foggy run), a trip homehome andandand Kisa got to go (yay), Hilltop got a much needed haircut, there were a ton of new Natalie sightings, and, dare I say, the promise of a Hilltop Thanksgiving? The end of the month was a little stressful – a lump in the breast and a missing ovary. No wonder I read so many books and here they are:

  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis ~ sci-fi story about a man who is kidnapped and taken to Mars.
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis ~ coming of age story about a young girl who is a chess playing phenom.
  • A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle ~ a ghost story about a man who lives in a graveyard for twenty years.
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters ~ a mystery about two unmarried women traveling through Egypt and being pursued by a mummy.
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan ~ nonfiction about the role of women through the ages (up to the 1960s when the book was written). Oh, how far we’ve come!
  • House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier ~ a spooky tale about time travel.
  • When Found, Make a Verse of by Helen Smith Bevington ~ a commonplace book full of poetry, proverbs and excerpts.
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo ~ a novel about small town life (read because October is the best time to visit New England).
  • The Natural by Barnard Malamud ~ a novel about a baseball player (read because October is World Series month).
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu ~ a compilation of short stories all on the dark side (read in time for Halloween – you know…horror, fantasy, mystery, etc).
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: an American Pilgrimage by Paul Elie ~ biographies of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy in one book (read for Group Reading Month).

For fun, I am rereading Mary Barney’s Ring That Bell (2003) because I want to challenge my cooking and make every recipe in the book. So far I’ve cooked/baked my way through nine recipes.

For the Early Review program from LibraryThing I was supposed to read Ostrich Feathers by Miriam Romm. It hasn’t arrived as of yet, so it may very well turn into a November book.


The Natural

Malamud, Bernard. The Natural. New York: Dell, 1952.

Even though the Boston Red Sox didn’t make it to the world series this year, I still wanted to read a baseball book before the season was over. The Natural seemed like the perfect choice to wrap up October 2009 even though it was on the depressing side.

Despite being only 180 pages long Bernard Malamud packs a lot of action into the plot of The Natural. Roy Hobbs is a rookie baseball player on his way to try out for Chicago’s pro team, the Chicago Cubs. Just as he arrives in Chicago he is shot by a serial killer, a woman bent on killing professional athletes. Fastforward 16 years and Roy has survived being shot and is now playing for the New York Knights. He has made it to the big time only to have to deal with a mid-season slump, a crooked co-owner, Judge Banner, an infatuated woman who says she is carrying his child, Iris Lemon, and his unresolved relationship with the fans. When Hobbs is bribed to throw the game, he counters with a bigger bribe and the deal is done. The book ends with a newspaper boy confronting Hobbs after the game, asking “Is it true?” and Hobbs cannot reply.

I didn’t really find any lines that struck me serious.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (p 229).