HURRAH FOR THE NEXT MAN WHO DIES by Mark Goodman

HURRAH FOR THE NEXT MAN WHO DIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Drenched, rather self-consciously, in nostalgic atmosphere: a novel based on the real life-story of Hobey Baker, Princeton football great and WW I flyboy-hero--who crashed his plane ""in a last turn up there"" a month after the Armistice. The honeyed, early-Fitzgerald-era narration here is provided by Baker's fictional buddy, Princeton classmate Jeb Runcible, whose gin-dipped sogginess occasionally verges on burlesque. (""I was perfectly content to have my generation lower its ragged banners and forlorn trumpets, retire to the sidelines with brimming cocktail glasses and let the parade pass by."") But Jeb eventually hits a lighter, easier stride as he evokes Kollege Kapers with the Princeton lads of '14: the clubs, hellraising along Nassau St., the naughty goings-on in flivvers or cathouses, the autumn-leaved marvels of the football season, the ""dark and fertile soul"" of caddish pal ""Sprat"" Spratling. And above all there's Hobey, the ""two-beer drunk"" and victorious conquerer of the gridiron, comfortable only on the playing field--""one of those rare people whose very appearances represented something. . . something perishable but infinitely desired."" Soon Jeb falls precipitously in love with Julia Bremer, whose laughter sounds ""as if a pagan wind, perfumed with exotic flowers, had rippled the chapel bells at an inappropriate hour."" Hobey, dreading loss of control, is more cautious, falling despite himself for graceful, bitchy Mimi Scott--who is perhaps a reflection of Hobey's own consummate grace. But then the rich young lads graduate: what's there to do? Well, after diddling in hateful banking, Hobey tries to join the British Army: ""All these grand fellows--suddenly they had something to do."" Eventually Hobey and Jeb will meet again in the Lafayette Escadrille, a corps of American flyers in France. And though Hobey scrapes the skies with kill after kill, he's as honor-bound as ever--never understanding that ""It's not the fucking Yale game out there!"" (In this version, despite the Armistice, Hobey--whose gridiron ""exultation in victory never extended beyond the final gun""--has, likewise, no wish to live beyond war's end.) A soft, smooth, unprobing evocation of the white-silk-scarf era--it's not surprising to learn that Goodman is senior writer at Gentlemen's Quarterly--but jaunty and bittersweet enough for those with a weakness for romanticized touchdowns and war-games.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum