The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

3720 Words Jun 23rd, 2018 15 Pages
The Henry Wiggen Novels of Mark Harris

There can be no question that sport and athletes seem to be considered less than worthy subjects for writers of serious fiction, an odd fact considering how deeply ingrained in North American culture sport is, and how obviously and passionately North Americans care about it as participants and spectators. In this society of diverse peoples of greatly varying interests, tastes, and beliefs, no experience is as universal as playing or watching sports, and so it is simply perplexing how little adult fiction is written on the subject, not to mention how lightly regarded that little which is written seems to be. It should all be quite to the contrary; that our fascination and familiarity with
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Henry's language is not only an effective means of self-characterization, but also well-serves another pleasing aspect of these books, their humour. When Henry's quick wit clashes with his limited vocabulary, the resulting trademark speech is an always amusing mishmash of mixed metaphors, misused and misspelled words, and entertainingly garbled aphorisms that would make Yogi Berra proud. Often the humour is prominent, as seen in the passage quoted above in which Henry suspects Kress of having too many "irons in the pie", but just as often it is subtle and dependent on a careful reading, as in this speech in which Henry attempts to encourage his roommate, the doomed Bruce Pearson:

"And tell me one more thing," I said. "Would a smart fellow like me room with a dumb one? How do people room with people around here? Do you room with your opposite type or do you room 2 by 2 like Jonah in the ark? (Bang The Drum 80)

This narrative voice, with its rudimentary grammar, obvious underlying sagacity, and humourous overtones, is at its absolute best when it engages the subject of baseball. When Henry discusses its nuances his speech is energized with a palpable love for the game, his observations are strikingly perceptive, and his otherwise laughable habits of speech seem somehow appropriate:

To Bruce a pitcher is only a fellow throwing the ball, and a catcher is only
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