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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund
Gather the Daughters: A Novel
Jennie Melamed

The Natural

The Natural - Bernard Malamud, Kevin Baker Courtesy of The Literary SnobThere are few reasons why I'd pick up a book about baseball. As I compile a mental list, I find that nearly every possibility is due to either necessity or wit. Yet I did pick one up and even read it in its entirety for one very good reason: Bernard Malamud.I read The Assistant a couple years ago and since I have been a great fan of Malamud. He infuses the subtlest hints of poetry and magic into his otherwise simple stories; the result—a fast, effortless read which peels away to reveal an elegant tale rich with gorgeous imagery.I had some uncertainty about whether The Natural would be easily admitted into Malamud's canon having two possible strikes against it from the onset: its subject of baseball, and it was the author's debut novel. While these factors may have been a slight hindrance in this book's full potential, The Natural is still a home run—the best in its league.Within pages, Malamud comes out swinging with a back story that is mysterious and engaging. Quickly, my worries of a tedious read melted away—this was Bernard Malamud.The Natural follows Roy Hobbs, a man whose dreams of being baseball's greatest name is detoured and, with the passage of many years, find his chances slipping away. Naturally, as one would expect from any American story about baseball, Hobbs is given his opportunity. What one may not expect from Malamud's treatment of the subject is the brutal literary depth applied. Make no mistake, The Natural is literature.Despite its beauty and tightness, The Natural does sometimes miss the mark. At times Roy Hobbs reminded me of Jay Gatsby, and I wondered if Fitzgerald's novel was not in mind as Malamud penned his first work. Some may welcome such a comparison, but as I find The Great Gatsby to be the most overrated work of literature I have personally read, I did not.The average baseball fan would probably hate this book, especially in its conclusion. While at times it may feel like Field of Dreams, ultimately it is not. For a literary snob like myself, however, I believe this is the best that baseball has to offer.