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The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

Powerful Essays
The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

There can be no question that sport and athletes seem to be considered less than worthy subjects for writers of serious fiction, an odd fact considering how deeply ingrained in North American culture sport is, and how obviously and passionately North Americans care about it as participants and spectators. In this society of diverse peoples of greatly varying interests, tastes, and beliefs, no experience is as universal as playing or watching sports, and so it is simply perplexing how little adult fiction is written on the subject, not to mention how lightly regarded that little which is written seems to be. It should all be quite to the contrary; that our fascination and familiarity with sport makes it a most advantageous subject for the skilled writer of fiction is amply demonstrated by Mark Harris.

In his novels The Southpaw (1953), Bang The Drum Slowly (1956), A Ticket For A Seamstitch (1957), and It Looked Like For Ever (1979), Harris chronicles the life of Henry "Author" Wiggen, a great major-league baseball star. Featuring memorable characters and deft storytelling, these books explore the experience of aging, learning, and living in time, with baseball as their backdrop.

Henry's first-person narrative is the most important element of these stories. Through it he recounts the events of his life, his experiences with others, his accomplishments and troubles. The great achievement of this narrative voice is how effortlessly it reveals Henry's limited education while simultaneously demonstrating his quick intelligence, all in an entertaining and convincing fashion. Henry introduces himself by introducing his home-town of Perkinsville, New York, whereupon his woeful g...

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...ause they are so well written. The expertly devised narrative voice, easy humour, compelling characterization, and thoughtful, even philosophical storytelling combine to create a series of books which compare favourably to many included on the Modern Library's recent list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, which seems not to contain a single novel set in the world of sport. It is a curious prejudice, this apparent lack of respect for literature concerned with sport, to which these novels represent a pointed and hearty rebuke.

Works Cited

Harris, Mark. A Ticket For A Seamstitch. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

---. Bang The Drum Slowly. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.

---. It Looked Like Forever. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

---. The Southpaw. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
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