Writing on Baseball
For die-hard baseball intellectuals, Peterson explores how baseball writers have generated and sometimes challenged the narrative myths of the sport and its players.
Where is the truth about baseball to be found? In nostalgic stories of the timeless bond woven between fathers and sons on the ball field? Or in stinging exposÚs about manipulative owners, abusive coaches, and greedy players?
Beginning with a mostly truthful essay about an exhausted university department chair who believes a visit to Cooperstown can save his soul and ending with the story of a delusional university professor who loses his mind because he takes baseball--and baseball writing--too seriously, Extra Innings tackles the question of how writing about baseball has shaped our understanding and misunderstanding of the national pastime.
In a series of astute reflections on baseball histories, biographies, personal reminiscences, and fiction, Richard Peterson explores how baseball writers have generated and sometimes challenged the narrative myths of the sport and its players. He looks at the shifting balance of romance and fact in standard baseball histories, from the early (Albert G. Spaulding and Alfred H. Spink) to the more recent (David Quentin Voigt, Charles Alexander, and others). He offers a lively discussion of baseball fiction--from the tall tales of W. P. Kinsella and Ring Lardner to moral romances such as Bernard Malamud's The Natural--and assesses the realism of postmodern baseball writing. He discusses the influence of Jackie Robinson on the serious baseball novel and the reluctance of baseball fiction to treat race issues realistically. He also surveys baseball's fleeting appearances in the literary canon (for example, a passing mention in The Great Gatsby of the 1919 world series fix) and suggests a "top nine" reading list for the baseball aficionado. Slicing away the myths and distortions of baseball's bizarre history, Extra Innings travels the course from the sport's rowdy early days to its contentious present. Somewhere between baseball as business and baseball as religion lies the truth of a game that remains, despite its tarnish, regenerative and redemptive.
"Peterson attempts to get at central questions about baseball by exploring the depiction of our national pastime in literature. In discussing books from Bernard Malamud's famous 'The Natural' to Mark Harris' more-obscure 'The Southpaw,' Peterson brings alive dramas and themes that have echoed for generations." -- Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
"Offers very useful insights into the short and long fiction of baseball literature. . . . Peterson's guide is as much a handbook and companion as a collection of writings. The bibliography and list of books cited are also very useful." -- Choice
"So you love reading about baseball. You've read The Boys of Summer and A False Spring and Eight Men Out. You're also familiar with books by other gifted baseball scribes. . . . Maybe you haven't read all those books, but you've heard about them, and you plan to fill in the gaps just as soon as you have a moment to spare. Put those plans aside and read Extra Innings instead. . . . [Peterson] adds a dimension to the discussion of serious baseball writing that has been lacking until now." -- David Shiner, Elysian Fields
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