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Title: Battle Creek
Book Condition: Good
About this title
Gil Davison is the coach of an amateur baseball team in Michigan, national finalists many times over but champions never. He has spent his adult life juggling his roles as coach to the team, father to his estranged son, and caretaker to his own disapproving father -- a man disdainful of Gil's passion for the game. Now, in this one season, Gil's star pitcher is losing his arm , his son has made it clear that he is doing just fine without him, and his father is dying of cancer. So when a hot rookie hitter wanders into town -- fresh from a stint in prison and determined to make a clean start -- Gil convinces himself that this season his team must win the championship, their one last chance to fulfill an elusive dream. But the events that unfold are unexpected, enlightening and overwhelmingly powerful -- and they will change each of these men forever.
With the voice of a born storyteller, a gift for capturing the subtleties of men's interactions and a tireless pursiut of our most vulnerable truths -- in love, parenting, competition, and death -- Scott Lasser lays bare the unspoken bonds and implicit understandings that exist between all men -- silences that substitute for compassion, silences that can eventually implode from the pressure of their own restraint.Review:
In his first novel, Scott Lasser takes on that time-honored topic, arms and the man--pitching arms, that is. But Battle Creek is no overblown baseball epic. Instead, the author focuses on a minor-league team--one whose propensity to lose in the final round of the nationals makes its sponsorship by a funeral home somehow appropriate. Can veteran coach Gil Davison turn things around? He's determined to do so, even if it means a touch of dugout downsizing:
He has made up his mind that this will be his last season. He wants to go out on top. In previous years he kept some people on board out of loyalty, or because he liked them, or because he liked their wives or girlfriends, or just to avoid having to fire them, but this year he won't do it. This year a player has to produce, or he's gone.Gil, who's been diverting money from his father's checking account to keep the team in cleats, is the center of the novel. But Lasser introduces us to the rest of the roster, too. There's sexual athlete and power pitcher Ben Mercer, who succumbs to baseball's equivalent of the Dark Side and starts throwing spitballs. (Mercer, by the way, is a stockbroker when he's not on the mound, which may make for a certain harmonic convergence between him and his bond-trading creator.) There's also a young hitter, Luke James, whose promising career gets truncated by a well-placed bean ball. Throughout, Lasser has a fine, glancing touch with "the dance of infield practice and the pop of the ball in the catcher's mitt, the flicker of signals from the catcher with a man on second, and the lean of a ballplayer as he rounds third base." But aside from the generational head-butting between Gil and his father, the author's explorations of the wild and wooly world of American masculinity have something tentative to them. Aiming, perhaps, for the back fence, he has an unfortunate tendency to check his swing. --James Marcus
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