This short novel follows two narrative threads: baseball player Craig Suder’s quixotic adult adventures and his childhood memories. Each contemporary moment is informed by some action in the past; chapters shift from one narrative line to the other.
The first story line begins with a strikeout, but Craig Suder’s problems in batting are only the beginning of his worries. His poor performance on the field is letting down his team and embarrassing his son; his poor performance in bed is driving his wife Thelma to her exercycle and perhaps to another man. After he is conveniently put on the disabled list, not for any physical injury but for his supposed jinx on the team, Craig uses his long leave of absence to examine his life. He does not like what he sees. Only with his discovery of what he assumes is Thelma’s infidelity does he decide to abandon his responsibilities. He leaves, taking only his baseball bat, saxophone, record player, and a recording of Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.”
Herein begins a series of episodic, seriocomic experiences. First, Craig asks Sid Willis if he can stay on Willis’s boat. During his short sojourn with the renegade Willis, Suder becomes the unknowing accomplice to a drug-smuggling scheme. Unhappy with his implication in criminal activities and wary of Willis’s offer to do him a favor by ending his “miserable, pathetic life,” Suder pushes Willis and the drugs overboard. He then adds a suitcase full of money to his list of movable property.
Willis’s paraphrase of Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel’s theory that “you need a dash of illogicalness to make your life complete” seems to apply to much of Suder’s life. After his adventure at sea, he lands in Portland, Oregon, where he rents a room in a boardinghouse in the Chinese district, unaware that its residents are gay. He also unwittingly inspires the affection of Fat Thomas, who helps him escape from Willis, who has followed Craig to the city. Taking Thomas’s station wagon, Suder heads for manager Lou Tyler’s cabin in the Cascade mountain range. Along the way, he acquires an elephant by making a wager at a suburban shopping mall. Once in the mountains, he takes...
(The entire section is 901 words.)