(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy again has baseball as its dominant motif. This time, though, Kinsella injects even more elements of magic and mystery, as the reader learns that to be obsessed with baseball is to achieve a sort of mystical state. The narrator here, Gideon Clarke, whose love of baseball was passed down to him by his father, not only is obsessed with a mysterious and mythical baseball event, but also is ultimately given access to a magical realm. Clarke, like his father before him, is out to prove to the world that the Chicago Cubs traveled to Onamata, Iowa, in the summer of 1908 for an exhibition game against the all-stars of the Iowa Baseball Confederacy, an amateur league. The game, which the Cubs figured would not be much of a game at all, lasted in excess of two thousand innings and was played in an almost constant downpour. Since the game appears in no record books, the offices of the Cubs (and pretty much everyone else) have written Clarke off as insane. No one seems to acknowledge the game or even the confederacy. However, Clarke is convinced that the game was played. He believes so strongly, in fact, in the existence of the confederacy and the marathon game they played against the Cubs that he devotes his entire life to setting the record straight.

Kinsella is also concerned here with the rapprochement of fixed forces like love and sadness, sacrifice and anger, and hunger and faith. The book is not only full of lyrical descriptions of America’s national pastime and not solely concerned with the magical game between the Cubs and the Confederacy, but it is, like much of Kinsella’s work, also lighthearted and funny, a book as much about time travel as it is about baseball, as much about human communion as it is about magic. It is a poignant and heartfelt work.