Guide to Baseball Novels: M

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An exceedingly old-fashioned novel; the central idea is in fact taken from a 1951 juvenile by Allison & Hill. It's a wisecracking tale akin to '70s romps like All G.O.D.'s Children and Screwballs, or earlier comic novels like A Pennant for the Kremlin. To its credit, it's self-consciously old-fashioned, and if you can endure lots of wry comedy and snappy dialogue, you might like it.

An appealing magical-realist novel, Joy in Mudville shows the influence of Kinsella, but is lighter and more lyrical than any of Kinsella's fantasies. The first reviewers also compared the book to the work of E.L. Doctorow; McAlpine blends celebrities and invented characters in a similar nostalgic mix, but his approach is more magical than Doctorow's. Unfortunately out of print, this book deserves a new edition.

Dense and verbally tricky, this novel connects violence, sex, mutual assured destruction, and retaliation for injuries in a postmodern moral fable. Too pathologically and graphically violent to succeed as entertainment, it is nevertheless a skillful mix of literary techniques.

Heavy and thick symbolic novel that just avoids congealing altogether. It is, as one should remember, a first novel by an author who went on to greatness. The Natural has had a tremendous impact on later baseball fiction, and remains a true archetype of the genre. Sometimes critiqued as unrealistic, which is beside the point: the baseball in the novel is not drawn from real life, but almost entirely from the stock situations in juvenile and pulp baseball stories that flourished in the first half of the 20th century. This (seriously) parodic relation to lowbrow fiction gives The Natural its postmodern texture. Filmed, with various sentimental embellishments, in 1984.

Criticism: Candelaria, Carino, Dodge, McGimpsey, O'Connor, Petty, Rutter, Schiavone, Sullivan, Turner, Vosevich, Wasserman, Westbrook.

Defies the usual formula by having its central team become truly awful.

Moderately funny life's-losers novel; similar in setting and theme to Lorenz's Guys Like Us, but lacks that novel's edge and abandon.

Major entry in the small sub-genre of baseball glurge.

The kidnapped-cousin subplot keeps one's attention, but the novel drags on after it is sewn up, and ends with spasms of melodrama and a truly bad pastiche of Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses.

Historical novel based on the life and career of the author's grandfather.

Readable magical-realist fare.

"I've written about what it was like to live in Western Pennsylvania during the 1930s. . . . Scottdale was a town that had a love affair with their minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. In actuality, the town fathers thought so much of their team that they actually paid Branch Rickey a yearly fee to keep the team in town."

Read Scott D. Peterson's review for the Sport Literature Association.

This edition is bilingual, with an English version of the novel followed by a Spanish version.

Energetically written, but sinks from the weight of relentless, minutely-detailed exposition.

Dreadfully unfunny Cold War comedy, possibly a trial balloon for a movie treatment that Hollywood was too smart in the long run to buy.

Over-the-top genre crossover that plays more as parody noir in the Carl-Hiaasen vein than as serious hard-boiled thriller.

A mix of wacky character business and overly fraught marital trouble somewhat detracts from the central theme, which is American male midlife wish-fulfillment in its purest form.

And does so. Sporadically interesting local-color farce that hits about .150 in its attempts at humor and pathos. See Waiting for Teddy Williams at lection.