Saturday, April 25, 2009

Novel notes: "The Southpaw"

In my baseball book review series, I've finally come to the novel that gave birth to that important character in literature, and a character especially important to this blog: Henry Wiggen.

"The Southpaw" is the first of four books narrated by Wiggen, a pitcher for the New York Mammoths (a fairly obvious copy of the Yankees). In fact, on the title page, Wiggen gets an author credit for the book, and real author Mark Harris takes a backseat. The title page reads thusly:

Punctuation freely inserted and greatly improved

The Wiggen saga follows the narrator throughout his illustrious baseball career. In "The Southpaw," he's a young, rookie pitching sensation with high hopes and high expectations (think San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, or Royals star Zack Greinke). In "Bang the Drum Slowly," Wiggen is still young but he's already established as one of the league's top pitchers every year (compare to Jake Peavy or CC Sabathia). In "A Ticket for a Seamstitch," Lofflin's favorite book in the series, Wiggen is a veteran, a little older but still dominant and at the top of his class (like Johan Santana or Roy Halladay). And finally, in "It Looked Like For Ever," he's in the twilight of his career, a living immortal (Tom Glavine or Randy Johnson).

The Wiggen series is unique in sports literature, which is somewhat surprising. I would think a series of books following on player's career would be quite popular. But nobody has been able to pull it off quite like Mark Harris.

I'm two-thirds finished with "The Southpaw." I'll be reading more today between picks in the NFL Draft, and I hope to finish it up early next week.

Look for the review soon!

--Matt Kelsey

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