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The Natural by Bernard Malamud

The Natural (1952)

by Bernard Malamud

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It was a good book, I loved it. ( )
  Foxy18b | Nov 24, 2017 |
Lukacs claims that the novel replaces the epic in the modern world, where irony becomes the dominant discursive mode. But to me The Natural reads like a genuine epic, with its sweeping panoramas of pre-WWII American life and its superhuman but tragically flawed hero. A gripping narrative from the first page, and I loved the echo of Peter's betrayal of Christ in the final lines, when Hobbs realizes that he has betrayed the game of baseball, the purest thing in his life.

I also derived a lot of pleasure from knowing the movie pretty intimately. The movie actually follows the novel pretty closely in a lot of its plot details, even reproducing a lot of the novel's dialogue. But the smallest of tweaks to Roy Hobbes's character transforms him from tragically flawed to demigod. The novel is worth reading just to have the chance to think about these different visions of the American epic hero, which might be a product of the novel and film's different historical contexts. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
Summary: The story of Roy Hobbs, whose promising career in baseball is nearly ended by a strange woman with a silver bullet and his attempt at 35 for one more season of greatness.

The story of Roy Hobbs is that of the tragic hero come to baseball. A number of you may remember the 1984 movie starring Robert Redford. I haven't seen the movie but I sense the book is darker. The story begins with a young Roy Hobbs on a cross-country rail journey that recurs in dreams throughout the book as a symbol of futility. At one stop, he encounters The Whammer, a fading star who he strike out. He also encounters Harriet Bird who turns out to be a crazed serial killer of athletes, who nearly ends Hobbs's life in a Chicago hotel.

Flash forward to Hobbs at 35, who finally makes it back to the majors landing a spot with the hapless New York Knights, their aging manager Pops, their star clown, Bump, his girlfriend Memo (where does he get these names?), the shrewd skinflint owner,Judge, the gambler, Gus, and the sportswriter, Max Mercy, who senses this is not the first time he has met Roy. Hobbs lands a spot, taking Bump's place after Bump died running into a wall chasing down a long fly ball. Roy, and his bat Wonderboy, help lift the club into first place. Hobbs tries to get Memo back in his bed (he had slept with her after trading rooms with Bump only to have her, thinking he was Bump, jump in bed with him).

When he fails in his efforts, he ends up in a slump, only to meet the one woman who really cares about him, who he avoids after a one night stand finding out that she, though younger, is a grandmother. But she restores his self-confidence, the team gets into first place, and has to win one more game, which it fails to do because Hobbs voraciously eats himself sick. They are tied with the Pirates and have to win a playoff game to win the pennant. Hobbs is released in time for the game but offered a payoff if he will throw the game--a payoff allowing him to provide a life of style for Memo. Will he take the payoff, or remain loyal to the team and Pops.

The quest for greatness, the voracious hunger, and the penchant for dangerous women suggest a man searching for significance in the face of onrushing death. He is the hubristic tragic hero. Yet all this seemed cliche, from the names, to the "dangerous women" to the language he uses to describe these women. Maybe this portrays his shallowness, but it seemed overdone and heavy-handed, which surprised me in a writer of Malamud's reputation.

This is considered a baseball classic but I was disappointed. A bit more subtlety would have been welcome. From what I can tell, this was early Malamud and perhaps he was learning his craft. Whatever was the case, this is a classic I can't recommend, as pleasant as this might have been to read. ( )
1 vote BobonBooks | Sep 29, 2016 |
This is the story of a baseball hero based on the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King. Roy Hobbs is determined to be the best baseball player ever and to break every record ever set. This ego, along with his lack of self-control, work against him throughout the novel.

I wasn't really impressed with the book while I was reading it. I think there were times when Malamud needed to explain something, but he couldn't find a good way to fit the explanation in, so he just stuck it in haphazardly where it didn't really fit. I also thought he was a bit too obtuse with his symbolism at times. Usually I like or at least don't mind this, but with this one I had to do a bit of research after I finished the book to really figure out what the point of the whole thing was. I appreciate Malamud's effort a lot more now that I've done some research, but I would have had a better experience reading the book if the research hadn't been necessary. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Malamud's first novel and an attempt to use the motif and story of the Fisher King in a fallen world.

That world, for him, is baseball, and for many years it was truly America's game. The Black Sox scandal was so painful to the country precisely because it broke the sweet image of the boys of summer, and revealed baseball as a business as open to corruption as any other. So it must have seemed the perfect environment to explore purity and failure.

Roy Hobbes is a magical rube when we first meet him, and awful things happen to him almost immediately as he travels from private kinds of dysfunction to the dysfunction of sports. 15 years later, he comes back to baseball as if to reluctantly fulfill a destiny, and for a while we think he might do it. His skill, his determination, the way he seems to inspire a cellar team and the public mix with huge appetites, and a terrible misjudgement of the people around him.

Malamud's writing takes unexpected mystical, surreal flights as he describes peoples' dreams, events on the field and off. His women are not so much stereotypic as iconic in the manner of legend, dangerous, deceitful, inspiring, a test of Roy's purity and faults. Will he, at the end, ask the right question and save the world? ( )
  ffortsa | Jun 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374502005, Paperback)

Roy Hobbs, the protagonist of The Natural, makes the mistake of pronouncing aloud his dream: to be the best there ever was. Such hubris, of course, invites divine intervention, but the brilliance of Bernard Malamud's novel is the second chance it offers its hero, elevating him--and his story--into the realm of myth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:57 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Roy Hobbs, the protagonist of The Natural, makes the mistake of pronouncing aloud his dream: to be the best there ever was. Such hubris, of course, invites divine intervention.

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