Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five best works of fiction on baseball

Allen Barra's books include Rickwood Field: A Century in America's Oldest Ballpark and Brushbacks and Knockdowns: The Greatest Baseball Debates of Two Centuries.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of baseball fiction, including:
Ring Around the Bases
by Ring Lardner (1992)

To paraphrase Hemingway on "Huckleberry Finn," all baseball literature comes from one book by Ring Lardner, "You Know Me Al" (1916), the first-person account of the trials and tribulations of a shallow young bush-league braggart. Lardner's appeal extended far beyond readers of the sports pages: His fans even included Virginia Woolf, who said that Lardner "writes the best prose that has come our way, often in a language which is not English." She was right; it is pure American. In "Ring Around the Bases," the stories of "You Know Me Al" are reprinted along with some of Lardner's other great baseball writing, including such tales as "Alibi Ike," "My Roomy" and "Hurry Kane." Some of it deals with a motor-mouthed young outfielder named Casey Stengel—who, before he re-emerged in 1949 as the manager of the Yankees, many thought Lardner had invented. As Matthew Bruccoli makes clear in his introduction, Lardner's brilliance as a fiction writer was due in large part to his keen journalist's ear: He did not so much create a new language as reveal one.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Marjorie Kehe's ten best list of baseball books, Doug Glanville's best books on baseball, Richard J. Tofel's list of the five best books on baseball as a business, Tom Werner's six favorite baseball books, Fay Vincent's five best list of baseball books, Tim McCarver's five best list of baseball books, and Nicholas Dawidoff's five best list of baseball novels.

--Marshal Zeringue