Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Transcendental Tuesday: THE BROTHERS K by David James Duncan

Not exactly a little known gem, this novel certainly has a devoted following.  But, in my opinion, the book is a true American masterpiece and deserves a much wider audience.  It first appeared in 1992, its handsome dustjacket (scanned above) featuring four baseballs, the one with the bird atop also included on the wide spine between author and title.  It is a hefty book of 645 pages.

THE BROTHERS K is a comic family saga which uses THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV for some of its comparative metaphors.  Like Dostoevsky's classic, it also deals with history and religion and family relationships, but in the droll American hyperbole best examplified previously by Mark Twain.  It is ultimately a uplifting spiritually humanist book.

All of that, but at the same time, THE BROTHERS K is one of my favorite baseball novels.  When the narrator is a child, he watches the ballgames on television with his father.  The hilarious Dizzy Dean/Pee Wee Reese play-by-play is both historical and enhanced by the author's imagination.  The author uses the last words of Henry David Thoreau as a chapter epigraph and then constucts a fitting baseball parable worthy of Mark Twain himself.

The book is subdivided into six book sections, each with three chapters or more.  Many of the chapters could stand alone as short stories, but the entire work interconnects.  For a text of this size, it is astonishingly easy to read.

I recommend all of the author's other books as well.  You can read several interviews with him across the web, including this one (link) in which he goes into his ideas on spirituality.

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