Malamud’s The Natural

[Sports fiction is a poorly covered and unappreciated craft.  It is a hard slog to bring the drama of the playing field to life on the written page.  Several authors have done it and arguably none of them with greater success than Bernard Malamud in his The Natural.  The New York Times, in its initial review, called it a “brilliant and unusual book.” I wholeheartedly agree.]


Ah. Let us venture into the land of the oft-neglected field of sports fiction, and offer a recommendation that should be on every summer reading list: Bernard Malamud’s classic The Natural.

The Natural is arguably the finest work of baseball prose (maybe even sports). Malamud wrote The Natural in 1952.  Malamud would go on to pen many fabulous pieces on Jewish life with morality-based themes.  It makes The Natural even more notable in some ways as it was his only piece not to contain Jewish characters, as well as his only baseball piece.

Malamud writes with Fitzgerald-esqe poise and imagery, and imbibes his piece with baseball language that only a true fan could incorporate. It is the trick, I would contend, that so often is the swinging miss of sports fiction. The author either can’t truly capture the subtleties of the game or, alternatively, brings deep understanding, but little ability to weave a compelling narrative.  Malamud has no such challenge.  The characters, from the tragic-hero Roy Hobbs to the snooping reporter, Max Mercy, will captivate you from the first page.

It is indubitably deserving of its “classic” label. It is a perfect summer read, available for a mere six USD on MEFK couldn’t recommend enough.  Naturally, it is 10/10.

Powers Trigg


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3 comments on “Malamud’s The Natural
  1. Baseball Fan says:

    This book is exceptional. Thank you for the rec. I am really glad that I read it.

  2. Alfred says:

    This book is a true classic. I have read it multiple times and would pick it up tomorrow and enjoy it once again. Thanks for all of the great book review. They are a perfect addition to the site.

    • phtrigg says:

      Thanks, Alfred. I find myself picking up here and there too. And you can see elsewhere on the site, I took some weak attempts at writing some sports fiction this year. It is challenging, and makes you appreciate Malamud and others (like Deford) that took successful swings at this genre.

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