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Old 07-18-2019, 08:17 AM   #61
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Never turn to Hardy if you need something cheerful!

I think you have a very good point astrangerhere - there is a certain Hardyesque feeling of doom driving Roy from one disaster to the next. Though it's more his own fault, at least partly, than his simply being a pawn of the malicious fates.
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Old 07-18-2019, 09:01 AM   #62
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The first sentence is one of my favorite of the book. The second is textbook Greek tragedy, which has been discussed by those more learned than me above.
I agree with you about the first sentence. As it happens, this book would also have been a fit for next month as a first and it's not surprising that it has the flaws of a first novel, namely being overly explicit and obvious at times. A more seasoned writer would have fixed what you aptly characterize as "textbook," either by understating what he said in his follow-on sentence or leaving it out altogether.
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Old 07-18-2019, 11:38 AM   #63
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Never turn to Hardy if you need something cheerful!

I think you have a very good point astrangerhere - there is a certain Hardyesque feeling of doom driving Roy from one disaster to the next. Though it's more his own fault, at least partly, than his simply being a pawn of the malicious fates.
I think the whole "pre-game" section shows him as a pawn of the "malicious fates." He's had a miserable childhood, baseball is going to be his salvation, and then, boom, Harriet shoots him and takes it all away. He doesn't deserve any of that; all he is, is a cocky and ambitious kid.

In the "batter up" section he is not the innocent victim, but still, his punishment is way out of proportion to his faults, especially since he's destroyed after he tries to do the right thing at the end.
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:05 PM   #64
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Sorry, a bit late to the show, but not because I haven't read it! I've just been trying to catch up around here after a rough month. (But it's getting better!)

I really tried to like Roy. Again and again. And each time, he forced me to dislike him. His struggles are all too real, and I want him to overcome them, but in the end, it's right and appropriate that he doesn't.

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It is the women in the novel, more than the men, that to me show Malamud's early academic research. He wrote his thesis on Thomas Hardy. NOTHING ever ends well in Hardy, especially for women, so this was not an unforeseen conclusion.
It's his treatment of women, more than anything else, that disappoints. Yeah, I know, this was 1952, but a cad is a cad is a cad. And his braggadocio, with which I confess I have little sympathy or patience.

On a purely technical note, there are now two audio versions -- one only available via Overdrive, so far as I can tell, and one from Audible. The Overdrive one has a slightly better narration, IMHO, but the one from Audible actually has chapter markers, of a sort, so is much easier to read when you're on more than one device, as I usually am. Unfortunately, the Audible one didn't release until after I'd already finished the book, but I might well go back and listen to the whole book with it. I feel like I missed a fair amount and a second pass might help.
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:06 PM   #65
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I think the whole "pre-game" section shows him as a pawn of the "malicious fates." He's had a miserable childhood, baseball is going to be his salvation, and then, boom, Harriet shoots him and takes it all away. He doesn't deserve any of that; all he is, is a cocky and ambitious kid.

In the "batter up" section he is not the innocent victim, but still, his punishment is way out of proportion to his faults, especially since he's destroyed after he tries to do the right thing at the end.
The punishment does seem a bit OTT, but he is such a cad, one has a hard time working up much sympathy. (And at the end, it's too little, too late, IMHO.)
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:10 PM   #66
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The first sentence is one of my favorite of the book. The second is textbook Greek tragedy, which has been discussed by those more learned than me above. But, again, I see the the fact that Thomas Hardy was the focus of Malamud's study.

A quick JSTOR search on Hardy turns up hundreds of articles on suffering in his work, and if Malamud was mired in that for at least two years to do the thesis it had to work its way into his writing DNA. I guess combining that with the news of the time of baseball players being shot by dames made for one hell of an alchemy.
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Never turn to Hardy if you need something cheerful!

I think you have a very good point astrangerhere - there is a certain Hardyesque feeling of doom driving Roy from one disaster to the next (emphasis mine). Though it's more his own fault, at least partly, than his simply being a pawn of the malicious fates.
That's probably why I abandoned Hardy in my teens and never wanted to go back! Honestly, I'm not much of a fan of tragedy, except the Shakespearean versions. And Roy is definitely the victim of his own faults, predominately.
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Old 07-18-2019, 01:42 PM   #67
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I think the whole "pre-game" section shows him as a pawn of the "malicious fates." He's had a miserable childhood, baseball is going to be his salvation, and then, boom, Harriet shoots him and takes it all away. He doesn't deserve any of that; all he is, is a cocky and ambitious kid.
But nobody deserves the bad breaks handed out unevenly by the universe. Roy was unlucky, yes, but not uniquely unlucky, and he had his chance at redemption at that. In mythology, Iris is the messenger of the gods; in this case, Iris was the messenger from the gods, but Roy ignored her until too late.

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... especially since he's destroyed after he tries to do the right thing at the end.
Timing! Hubris and irony: Roy had his chance when he was blasting the foul balls at Otto; that his epiphany only came after he misfired and struck Iris ("Christ! Another one!") was his tragedy, but he brought it on himself - which is one of the markers of tragedy.
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Old 07-18-2019, 01:51 PM   #68
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The punishment does seem a bit OTT, but he is such a cad, one has a hard time working up much sympathy. (And at the end, it's too little, too late, IMHO.)
Oh, I think you always have to be sorry for someone who brings himself down. It doesn't make him likable, but it does make him sympathetic.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:34 PM   #69
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... I think if this is to be a classic hero's journey, with the hero coming full circle, then the conditions at the end should replicate those at the beginning. Since Roy now must take the place of the aging player in his last test, I think it was necessary for him to have the same final task. And the Babe Ruth reference makes it entirely credible.

Or, as the final line in The Great Gatsby put it:
(Sorry to take off - I’m a bit tied up with company. )

That makes sense. Initially, I wanted more explanations from the author, but eventually gave that up. It felt more like a fable than a novel. The writing has a mythological flavour - especially the dream & daydream segments. And the events are either improbable or the scale was too out of proportion to be taken literally. (No human could possibly eat that much!)

But honestly I’m not sure what Malamud was actually getting at. Is it a cautionary tale? Beware the path of Roy / follow the way of Iris ? If so, why did he make everything so dark & bleak? Iris is the only bright light in the story. Was it about post war disillusionment?
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:06 PM   #70
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Oh, I think you always have to be sorry for someone who brings himself down. It doesn't make him likable, but it does make him sympathetic.
Sometimes. But I confess, in most cases, I need to like someone to be sympathetic, except in the most abstract sense. And the one kind of male person I have the least ability to like is the braggart/bounder/cad. And Roy was all of those things.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:09 PM   #71
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Catlady, I absolutely agree about the first part of the book, where he's just a callow kid who came from a family which failed him utterly in terms of good role models, how to behave with a woman, and so on. But as issybird says, he had his chances to learn from the past, and to redeem himself, and he just failed in all departments.

Victoria, I suppose Malamud is saying that "I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul". We can't always help what happens to us in terms of accidents (or homicidal maniacs shooting us) but we can help what we do with what has happened. Roy seems to have stayed that kid of 19-20 in terms of maturity and judgement. He hasn't grown and learned from his life in the intervening years.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:15 PM   #72
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Charlie, you mentioned listening to the book a second time to pick up more. I was struck by how many extra things I have picked up just in going back to look up a particular passage, and if I can squeeze it in, intend rereading The Natural soon in the light of our discussion here.

It's the mark of a good book that there is something more to find each time you reread it. I'm not talking about what you might call comfort rereads, when you settle in with an old friend, but about this sort of book. It might not be comfortable and it isn't about people I would actually want to have as friends, but I have certainly got a lot out of reading it and our discussion.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:03 PM   #73
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Charlie, you mentioned listening to the book a second time to pick up more. I was struck by how many extra things I have picked up just in going back to look up a particular passage, and if I can squeeze it in, intend rereading The Natural soon in the light of our discussion here.

It's the mark of a good book that there is something more to find each time you reread it. I'm not talking about what you might call comfort rereads, when you settle in with an old friend, but about this sort of book. It might not be comfortable and it isn't about people I would actually want to have as friends, but I have certainly got a lot out of reading it and our discussion.
I've had a similar thought, that the book would amply repay rereading in light of what we've identified as recurrent themes and language and tracing them from the beginning. I'm truly enjoying keeping this book roiling around in my mind, to me another mark of a good book. This might well make my ten-best list at year's end.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:13 PM   #74
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Was it about post war disillusionment?
Aha! Another rather odd aspect. I think we can take the book as occurring in roughly 1950. But Malamud, deliberately I think, gives Tuesday, October 1, as the date of the deciding game, which places it out of time. The last Tuesday, October 1 was 1946, which is too early. The next Tuesday, October 1 was in 1957, after publication. But I digress.

My real point is that a scant five years after the war, it's as if it didn't happen. I can believe that people were putting the war years behind them as fast as possible, much easier in the US than other places. But still. What, for example, did Roy do during the war? He'd have been in his late 20s and presumably draft fodder. Was his belly wound one of those blessings in disguise, keeping him out of the war?

I was especially struck by the gift of the Mercedes-Benz, which struck me as distinctly odd in that time and context. Why not a Cadillac?
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:23 PM   #75
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Maybe the Mercedes-Benz was given because it wasn't selling, with people not wanting to buy German things?

It is an intriguing aspect that there is no suggestion that the war had taken place. However, here in Australia there was certainly the approach of "just put it behind you and forget about it" (which of course doesn't work with any sort of trauma) and no doubt that was the case in other countries too.
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