Miller abandons suspense (Tropical Heat, 2002, etc.) for what at first looks like a supernatural satire on baseball, reincarnation, and quantum physics—with some of the funniest sports spoofs since Ring Lardner.
When his best friend and deep intellectual companion, Arthur Hodges, a genius physicist and fellow mathematician, dies at 40 (still a stone virgin, wholly obsessed with math theory), Archibald Rhodes, better known as Benny, distinguished professor of mathematics, etc., at MIT and now in his early 60s, gives up his job and boring 40-year marriage to a wealthy wife to go on the road in a mobile home and live up his later years. As for the late Arthur, he’s seemingly too fine a mind to waste merely on death. Had he not been destined to be Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton himself? In Oklahoma, Benny picks up Becky Morgan, a waitress who has just had her third abortion in 18 months, and settles down with her on the boiling hot edge of the Mojave Desert. She’s gravid yet again. Happy Benny now loses his lifelong interest in the Boston Red Sox, an interest once wholly ignored by Arthur. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s have signed on Henry Spencer, a phenomenal catcher from North Carolina just out of the Army after three years. Henry, called “Soldier” by his astounded teammates, is supernaturally gifted, it seems, and may well be the greatest baseball player of all time. A magnificent and universally envied physical specimen, Henry’s quite pleasantly weird, can’t remember his past, and speaks of baseball as quantum physics, as if he’s Sir Isaac Newton himself. His teammates, all borderline morons, reel, stunned by Henry’s crazy grasp of the game as he speaks of pitches in terms of Max Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Schrödinger’s cat, and theoretical physics. So what’ll happen if and when Benny meets Henry and sees, hmm, Arthur?
Superb, often laugh-out-loud first half. Then no more jokes.