Basepaths

Jerry Klinkowitz, Author, Jerome Klinkowitz, Author
Jerry Klinkowitz, Author, Jerome Klinkowitz, Author Johns Hopkins University Press $19.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8018-5092-9
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-8018-6364-6
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Using sports lingo and the arcana of baseball to create rich atmosphere, Klinkowitz's second outing (after Short Season and Other Stories, 1988) is a satisfying stylistic achievement. Through the eyes of Ken Boyenga, an ex-major league catcher turned manager, the author portrays with real affection the world of minor league ball and the podunk towns that host teams like the Mason City Royals. Everyone in this flat Iowa landscape is minor-league himself, yet likable: the red-faced club president; his cheapskate garbage-collector colleague; a hairy redneck car salesman named Crazy Jim. In fact, the players and game are little more than backdrop to the host of well-drawn middle-aged screwballs that train, fund and feed the teams out of dedication to the sport. Klinkowitz's touch is less sure with his plotting, however. Many of the major narrative steps feel sketchy, and the farcical climax rushed, as suddenly the police, a romance writer, two pranksters, a mother-in-law and a Neo-Nazi get involved. Boyenga, our hero, remains the straight man throughout. His ultimate failure at a new career strikes a melancholy note, leaving the question: Is baseball just another cruel idol people worship or is the survival of its perpetual zaniness more important than any one player? (May)
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