Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: Michael Bishop's BRITTLE INNINGS

This last week, British journalist Jon Ronson, author of The Men Who Stare at Goats, appeared on The Colbert Report promoting his new book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry.  Ronson says that psychopaths that become serial killers are only a fraction of the psychopaths in the main population, that the other psychopaths often become CEOs and religious leaders causing damage to society and the general economy.

Q. What is your thumbnail definition of a psychopath?

A. I think it is no remorse and a total lack of empathy, which are the most important things. Everything follows from that. If you are a violent person, it frees you up to be violent. It frees you up to be manipulative. It frees you up to win the stampede to the top. Psychopaths become CEOs and religious leaders. Their brain dysfunction is the brain dysfunction that rules the world.

I thought about that as I reread Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings last night.  This little known gem defies classification.  It is many things: a crime-and-revenge novel, a baseball novel, a buddy novel, a coming-of-age novel, a science-fiction novel, and a beautifully written period piece of the segregated south during World War II.  It is also a rumination on the difference between monsters and humans, on how psychopaths can look human even while gentle humans may look monstrous.

Brittle Innings begins seriously, it turns comic, then tragic, but it is ultimately uplifting.  I finished it again stunned, amazed at the imagination it took to write such a book.  It is the kind of book that validates the reader's own humanism, that makes you glad that there are others out there who see these things, who feel this way.

I suggest you read Brittle Innings without reading any other reviews of it.  The less you know ahead of time, the better.  But if you demand to know more before taking it on, then you might as well read the spoiler topping my list at Amazon at this link.

This is the kind of novel that reads well even if you know the plot twists the lie ahead.  The beauty is in the telling.


  1. This one sounds terrific. The cover alone is worth having.

  2. I think this is the same Michael Bishop who wrote Who Made Stevie Crye? Another undiscovered writer of truly imaginative fiction. Iaian Banks gets all the praise for similar books. Bishop is far more readable.
    And better.

  3. One of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers who unfortunately hasn't published much in recent years.

  4. Michael Bishop took a real blow a few years back...his son Jamie was one of the victims of the Virginia Tech gun-wielding lunatic. Yes, he's a much better writer than Iain Banks, I'll agree, but hardly undiscovered...he just hasn't made too many inroads on the larger literary culture as yet, and BRITTLE INNINGS didn't, unfortunately, help much.