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You know me Al : a busher's letters by Ring…

You know me Al : a busher's letters (1916)

by Ring Lardner

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As the previous reviewer points out, You Know Me Al is set in the early years of major league baseball, so it was enjoyable reading about that era of train travel, spit balls, etc. Ring Lardner was an inspiration for J.D. Salinger, and you can hear some of Lardner's voice in Salinger's writings. ( )
1 vote jklavanian | Jun 1, 2016 |
Ring Lardner's novel,YOU KNOW ME AL, is a recognized classic, a tongue-in-cheek look at professional baseball in the early 20th century. First published nearly a hundred years ago, I don't think Lardner's book has ever been out of print. It's that good and still that relevant when it comes to baseball: i.e. a dumb jock is still a dumb jock. The novel is comprised of letters from Jack Keefe to his pal, Al Blanchard, back in Bedford, Indiana. Keefe is a former "bush-leaguer," who has made it to the bigs as a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. He is a semi-literate, blustering braggart who somehow manages to become a mostly sympathetic character in the course of his many letters about his ups and downs as a pitcher, his run-ins with management (Charles Comiskey, owner of the White Sox; and managers Callahan and Gleason), and his love-life adventures, an initially rocky marriage and fatherhood. A boorish boob/rube in many ways, Jack further endears himself to readers in his role as a doting new father of "little Al."

When he was writing the book, Lardner was a sports writer for newspapers, so he was very familiar with baseball's vernacular as well as all the best players of the time, many of whom are used in his narrative. And this was the era of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Walter Johnson and many other now legendary giants of the game. A hundred years later these figures turn this humorous book into a quasi-history of a sort.

While reading YOU KNOW ME AL, I often thought of Mark Harris's baseball tetralogy (THE SOUTHPAW; BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY; TICKET FOR A SEAMSTITCH; and IT LOOKED LIKE FOREVER), because Lardner's work is such an obvious influence on that of Harris.

I liked this book very much and will recommend it highly to baseball fans and historians. ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Sep 2, 2014 |
Amoosing, but probaly red better as a cerealization. ( )
  DMatty5 | Aug 1, 2014 |
Westvaco is the West Virginia Paper Co., makers of fine papers. For 47 years, they did a special Christmas book each year that they distributed to their customers, all featuring works from American history or literature. They all include a decorated slipcover, fine endpapers and many have embossed images on the book covers. Some feature gilt edges and silk ribbon bookmarks. Although they had a limited press run the number is not stated nor are they numbered or signed.
  SteveJohnson | Mar 8, 2014 |
Jack is a picture for the Chicago White Sox, and the story is told in a series of letters to his old friend Al, back in his hometown of Bedford. The slim enjoyment this book provides comes through Al's interactions with Sox owner Charles Comiskey and other real baseball legends, including Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. But most of the book consists of an endless pattern: Jack tells Al he isn't going to do something, then in the next letter he tells him he did it (and provides some feeble justification to make himself feel better--or maybe he really is that dumb!) After a while this gets extremely old, and it isn't very funny either, nor is most of the rest of the book. There is no real excitement from the baseball games in the book, either. Jack is actually an excellent pitcher and wins most of his games. He has a bottomless reservoir of self-confidence and attributes most of his losses to poor support from his teammates. But, given the letter format, we only hear about the games after they are over through Jack's sketchy accounts, and since the White Sox aren't contenders, there is no drama. The women Jack falls in love with are also a great drag on the story, as every one of them turns out to be some sort of shrew. Jack's most endearing trait turns out to be his genuine affection for his infant at the book's end. But getting that far, even though this is not a long book, is not an enjoyable slog. ( )
  datrappert | Jan 9, 2014 |
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Please don't combine with You Know Me Al:  The Comic Strip Adventures of Jack Keefe; the stories in the two books are entirely different.  Thanks.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0486285138, Paperback)

In his day, Ring Lardner was a legendary humorist (a job-description he disavowed), and You Know Me Al shows why everyone loved him so. In the letters of Jack Keefe, a bush-league pitcher who finally gets his chance in the majors, Lardner shows not only a faultless ear, but also a keen eye for the amusing details of human folly. Keefe is no comical bumbler--he has talent--but also possesses astonishing naïvete, and a lack of self-awareness that is unerringly hilarious. The busher blames everyone but himself for his failures (a trait that Lardner uses to wonderful comic effect in the story "Alibi Ike"). Still, thanks to Keefe's mixture of hubris and puppy-dog trust, you want to see him come out all right.

Lardner--who played a role in breaking the infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919--wrote You Know Me Al while covering pro baseball in the teens; for baseball fans, the book is an intriguing glimpse into the past. Athletes haven't changed much, poor devils. They're just as funny as ever, only richer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:13 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Jack Keefe, one of literature's great characters, is talented, brash, and conceited. Self-assured and imperceptive, impervious to both advice and sarcasm, Keefe rises to the heights, but his inability to learn makes for his undoing. Through a series of letters from this bush-league pitcher to his not-quite-anonymous friend Al, Ring Lardner maintains a balance between the funny and the moving, the pathetic and the glorious.… (more)

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