THE LONG GAINER
With several volumes of fiction and biography behind him, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in his pocket, Manchester has written a combination political and college novel, with traces of elements of the newspaper story and the athletic story thrown in for good measure. It tells of the career of Doc River, a farm boy who was a football hero at a New England state agricultural college, then its coach, and finally its president during its years of postwar expansion into a university of immense size and low academic standing. The story is told by a foreign correspondent, back for a short stint on the home beat, who was a former, football star under Doe's coaching and who reviews the past from the point of view of Doe's campaign for governor of the state. The story is very complicated without eing complex, and "big" without having much depth. It has dozens of characters (and a at the beginning so you can keep them straight), subplots within subplots to the point of irrelevancy, comments on scores of aspects of contemporary life, and quite a bit of sex. The targets of criticism in the college sections are such sitting ducks that potshots seem rather unsporting, but parts of the political background are . The athletic and newspaper stuff in fairly routine. The author has considerable narrative drive and can tell a story. What he has devoted his talent to- however- a big, intensely serious .