[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 Amazon.com. MEFK couldn’t recommend enough. Naturally, it is 10/10.