This is one weird book. But I liked it a lot.
Two personal personality quirks might account for this:
The main character has created an entire fantasy baseball league, and
is in the process of playing out year 56. Not with real players.
Entirely created and maintained and imagined by J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
Years are played out, deaths are mourned, injuries happen, he creates
complete lives for each player, all centered around the game of
When I was younger, I used to do something similar,
also using dice. Not baseball, but I remember creating whole little
villages using my mother's trolls, and figuring out relationships and
how friendships and marriages rose and fell according to the how the
dice rolled. These games never lasted longer than a couple of days, but I
get Henry's urge to create a world like this.
2) It's about
baseball. And I love baseball. Some people don't, that's fine. But it is
a three hour oasis in the day, it's a sport where an entire narrative
is created each and every time they step on the field, it plays into
larger storylines of teams winning and losing, and there is something
about it that lends itself to ascending to the status of myth.
father loved baseball, and since his death three years ago, my
entire family has gotten more into it, to honour his memory, or his
favourite sport, or something. And we all genuinely enjoy it. We go on
weekend trips to see our team. I called my sister to tell her that one
of her favourite players had been traded last week, and later she
emailed me that "we don't speak of her loss." I don't watch every game,
but I watch a good deal of many games.
So there are those things
that predisposed me to like this book. The book itself is another, as
it is a tale of how the stories Henry creates take over his life, become
more real to him than real. As a study in obsession, the writing is
hypnotic. Not only the teams, but the league politics, the barroom
carousing, the off-field lives of all of his players, past and present,
When the game comes to a head in its 56th year, when
the worst possible outcome on the Super Extraordinary Circumstances
chart occurs, Henry is almost shattered. Should he give up the game? How
can he restore balance to the universe? Where do his responsibilities
to his creation lie?
The last chapter blew my mind. It takes
place entirely within the world Henry created, and one player speculates
on their being an outside force that created their world, set the rules
in place, watches over everything that happens. And what has happened
between the last and penultimate chapters is only implied, but fairly
unsettling. It feels a lot like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.
feel that a certain knowledge and love of baseball might be necessary
to get into this book, as jargon and statistics fly fast and free. But
if it is a sport that you enjoy, this is a strange and wonderful look at
baseball and obsession.