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Malamud's first novel, published in 1952, is also the first--and some would say still the best--novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud takes on the story of a superbly gifted "natural" at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era--and invests it with the hardscrabble poetry, grand and believable, that runs through all his best work.

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Sirius

Aug 25, 2008

Roy Hobbs--Enigmatic "Natural"

Many readers may be drawn to The Natural because of the Barry Levinson movie. This was true for me, and I found the movie faithful to the book in many ways. For example, magic plays key roles in both book and film. However, the book presents a much darker story, and its plot differs dramatically from the film in critical places. Still, most of the actors conform very well to the characterizations developed by Malamud: Robert Duvall's Max; Joe Don Baker's Whammer; Barbara Hershey's Harriet; Darren McGavin's Gus; Wilford Brimley's Pop; and Richard Farnsworth's Red. But not so for Roy Hobbs! I don't know what to make of him; he is enigmatic (and perhaps oafish). He has his Great Talent, but it seems that he can only do ONE THING well. And he carries the seeds of his own downfall (as perhaps we all do). I tried to count the Seven Deadly Sins that Roy embodies, and I think they are all there--except possibly Sloth. But many (men, especially?) can relate to the unfortunate choices that Roy makes. He falls repeatedly into the same trap--baited with sex. It is one of the oldest stories, and Malamud is adroit in telling it. Archtypes seem to come and go throughout the book, and the concept of Free Will appears to be brought into question. It is a troubling story, but worth reading.

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