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After the uncompromising zest of Powers' assault on TV in Face Value, this fuzzier fictional potpourri about radio and sports-announcing--a little satire, a lot of nostalgic sentimentality, even some pretentiousness--is something of a disappointment. Powers' hero here is L. C. Fanning, a near-legendary radio baseball-announcer who's looking forward to riding out in glory through this, his final year (due to a throat condition) as ""Mister Play-by-Play"" for the New York Nets on WERA; he even hopes that this season his announcing--""with a steady daubing of well-aimed asides, fantasies, associations, improvisations, yarns, rumors, comments, and fables""--will become ""a canvas of the national life."" But, unbeknownst to poor L.C., WERA has been taken over by a crass, ratings-obsessed whiz-kid who's going to wreck L.C.'s dream: he hires starlet Robyn (brainy and nice despite her distracting bod) to become part of the broadcast team, along with L.C. and his beloved protÉgÉ, ex-catcher Turtle Teweles. (""She will do color and her own commentary from a woman's perspective."") Fierce conflicts ensue, of course: the guys try to sabotage Robyn; Turtle simply curls up and disappears when Robyn hangs around and ruins the ""chemistry""; L.C. struggles on, reluctantly showing Robyn the ropes (because of that bad throat, he can't do the show alone). And finally L.C. pretty much falls apart, senses Robyn taking over, goes on a futile quest to bring Turtle back, and returns to make one last bid for glory--re-creating a legendary, long-ago broadcast in the middle of a game. True, Powers still shows his satiric muscle here and there: Robyn's foul agent and the new-wave radio creeps are done to a crisp. And some of the lament for changing times--a team manager worried more about his TV commercial than his team, the fakery of TV coverage--scores neatly. But the central pathos of old L.C., despite some gritty moments, can't really rise above its saccharine aspect; and Powers belabors L.C.'s ethos--his announcing esthetics, his decline, his chemistry with Turtle (""the intertwinement had a spiritual dimension. He entered Turtle Teweles; passed through a chamber of the athlete's consciousness, sojourned in the catcher's hypostasis"")--in globs of inappropriately hoity-toity prose. So: lots of convincing, atmospheric appeal for long-time baseball-radio fans, intermittent amusement for everyone else--an uneven entertainment that doesn't quite work on any of its satiric, nostalgic, or serious-literary levels.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Delacorte