Monday, August 13, 2007

The Off-Day Digest: #15 Preview

Our latest print issue -- #15!!! -- is due out in early October (please email me if you need to update your address or if you want subscription info). This issue has a couple of things I couldn't get into #14 in time so they were pushed back. I figured that the lack of a game and news on the Mets front (Ramon Castro, how old are you really?) I'd use the time to roll out a preview of the next issue by publishing a shortened version of book review that will appear in a feature we're calling The Zisk Book Shelf. Enjoy.

Tim Wakefield’s Got Nothing on this Knuckleball

When I look over to the left from my computer in my home office, I get a close-up look on my small library of books. It’s shrunk over the years due to spatial limitations and my changing tastes. More specifically, I’ve ditched almost every work of fiction I’ve ever owned over the past decade -- and kept the music and baseball books. (The exceptions to this rule are anything written by Michael Chabon, Tom Perrota and David Sedaris.) So when the baseball-oriented novel The Knuckleball from Hell by Michael Wayne crossed my desk I had a few reservations. My only other experience with baseball fiction was a sub par Christmas gift called Searching for Ted Williams and reading over an article Zisk contributor Michael Baker wrote in issue # 8 about five different baseball novels. (Which, on the face of it, really is no experience at all.)

Even with all that baggage, I found Knuckleball to be a very entertaining read. Wayne has concocted one doozy of a story that at times had me thinking of the late Kurt Vonnegut. Trying to sum up the plot could take a couple of pages itself -- a teen pitching phenom wants to pitch for the Mets, but gets hurt at the end of his high school career. A mysterious professor gives the phenom a chemical that makes his pitches unhittable and helps propel the sad sack Mets towards the playoffs. The Mets owner gets killed in a mob hit and then the team is purchased by a crazy suffer dude who hires the two remaining Mets fans to run the team. Throw in a donut worshipping batboy, a cast of teammates that all speak different languages, a horndog of a commissioner who wants to run for President someday and a movie producer who follows a guru and you’ve got…hmmm.

Well, reading the above paragraph it looks like you’d have a mess on your hands trying to make that work. Yet Wayne succeeds by moving the story along at a brisk pace, not getting bogged down by focusing too much on one character and generally showing off a wicked sense of humor about the game, finance and people who like to wield their power around like they’re, well, you can probably come up with your own penis metaphor. The Knuckleball from Hell takes a lot of twists and turns like its namesake pitch -- and that’s the fun of reading it.

(You can order The Knuckleball From Hell Amazon here or from our friends at Powells here.)

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