A SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG BALL by Justin Cronin

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG BALL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cronin's quiet, successful debut--second winner of the National Novella Award (from the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa)--covers 20 years in the lives of two men, one rather conventional and the other troubled. The narrator and Donny, neighbors, play baseball together: when one ball sails into the trees, they ""rooted through those like archaeologists in a ruined cave, and when we found old balls, we found new ways to use them."" Cronin's prose carries such metaphors easily, for the most part, as the boys' parents become friends (""the lives between our household blurred"") and as the narrator develops a crush on Martha Flannigan, Donny's sister. The story jumps across time rather quickly--in many ways, it's a series of short-story instances linked together--and soon enough Donny is in rehab (cocaine overdose), screaming at the nurses (""I want my meth. I want it now!""). The narrator takes up lacrosse instead of baseball and tries to maintain contact with the troubled Donny, who has little time for the friendship: ""What would you know about it?"" he says after getting caught smoking pot. ""Do you have any idea what it is like to be me?"" He attacks the narrator (caught kissing Martha); then the story turns to the narrator at 28, married and with a son. When his father has a minor heart attack, he drives to see him (recuperating) with his boy; ""Uncle Donny,"" meanwhile, is living with his own parents, getting back on his feet, and attending the local college. The father panics when the narrator leaves his son alone with Donny to play ball, but no problem: in the concluding image, ""Grey-haired but himself, Donny reclined on his bat in the atttitude of a hale young slugger."" At best, a lyrical ode to small lost pleasures.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Council Oak