Bernard Malamud’s anomaly: ‘The Natural’

Thenatural-243x366Max Ross at the LA Review of Books:

THE NATURAL might be considered an anomaly within Bernard Malamud’s oeuvre if it didn’t so closely resemble nearly everything else within Bernard Malamud’s oeuvre.

Actually, it’s considered an anomaly, anyway.

Earlier this year, the Library of America published two volumes containing all of Malamud’s work up through the 1960s. (A third volume, with the rest, is said to be on its way.) His novels and stories have subsequently received a fair amount of press. Conspicuously, The Natural, his first novel, hasn’t — in some cases, it’s been mentioned only so it can be dismissed. “The reviewer has not read and is not likely ever to read The Natural, a baseball novel said to incorporate a mythical theme,” Cynthia Ozick wrote in TheNew York Times in March. “Myth may be myth, but baseball is baseball, so nevermind.” In his survey of Malamud’s work for Harper’s, Joshua Cohen dedicated to The Natural fewer than 10 words — it “concerns baseball, a.k.a. frustration” — before moving on to discuss the author’s more discussed narratives.[1] Likewise James Campbell, in The Wall Street Journal, cast it aside; he called The Natural “[Malamud’s] anomalous debut novel,” and quickly noted: “The two books that followed are probably his best.”

more here.