Narrators

Exhibit 1.1.15

Not About Baseball

No, seriously, Salter’s book is not about baseball. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you see someone’s copy and there is a dog-eared section, it’s not because that’s the part with the great story about Satchel Paige striking out Herbert Hoover.

I liked this well enough, I guess. I don’t know, it’s just a lot of sex and France so it’s hard to really dislike it, and it takes that rhapsodic realism that I liked in Coetzee’s book and trumps it by about a hundred gleeful uses of the word ‘prick.’ As pure language, it’s actually really remarkable as it’s all graceful fragments that shift perspective and tense without Salter ever seeming in less than total control.

I’m less enthralled with it as a story. It’s hard to know how much of this is what’s come after and how much is what came before, but as a story Salter’s book is firmly in the “rich ex-pats try to have more meaningful experiences in Europe but realize they cannot emigrate from themselves” camp. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a bad sign when your book might best be described as “if Henry James and Henry Miller had a child who wrote a book.” I mean, Henry James-Miller can write, but still. It’s a bad sign.

Okay, there’s a little more going on than that. The narration is nicely odd (it’s a book of intimate moments narrated by an older guy who was present for exactly none of them), but it doesn’t ever do much with that obsession and so the plot never matches the transcendence of its language. When it comes to its inevitable shrug of an ending, it’s hard to feel like anything real was lost, at least for the two male characters who, like us, always knew where this was headed. The local girl, who they kept it from, has the most to lose, but somehow no one ever tells that story.

My copy’s introduction bemoans this book being treated as only a minor classic, but it’s hard to see it as anything else. It’s a good, stylish read if one can keep their monocle from falling out, and it’s almost daring enough to last.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Narrators, Not Baseball