THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL
A book with this title just had to be written, and who is better qualified (if not Norman Mailer?) than Philip Roth, who's been doing his damnedest ever since Goodbye Columbus got the National Book Award back in 1959 when Ike was President. And what could be the topic but that ex-favorite National Pastime -- what every healthy American boy did Sunday afternoons before the advent of football and dope. The book is the purported history of the demise of the Patriot League, told by an Irish (natch) sportswriter name a' Word Smith, whose endless alliteration makes Joyce look like a slouch -- centering on the Exile of the Chosen People, the Ruppert Mundys (Rupe-it, in New Jerseyese) who in the bleak war years (that's World War Two) had a one-legged catcher, a one-armed right fielder (catches the ball, sticks it in his mouth, throws off the glove, takes the ball out of the mouth, throws to home), a midget pitcher, a fourteen year-old 92 pound second bagger. . . possibly part of the Commie conspiracy to destroy the League, hence baseball, hence America. Truth told by Word Smith from the confines of his old-age home, where he competes with superstars Melville, Twain, and Hawthorne in writing the you-know-what. A self-conscious savage satire of the land of apple pie and wheaties, plus occasional foul tips at literary tradition from Gilgamesh on up. As for the G.A.N., it is as much a dream as the 500 hitter, a goal made mythical by an arbitrary set of rules for a game which we (both writers and readers) now find tiring.