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).