The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.

by Robert Coover
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What religious themes does the book have?

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Writing in The Paris Review, Daniel Roberts calls Robert Coover's 1968 novel "a novel about fantasy baseball, though the word 'fantasy' never once appears in the book." Locating religious themes in the novel, while not impossible, requires some effort, certainly compared to his debut novel, The Origin of...

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Writing in The Paris Review, Daniel Roberts calls Robert Coover's 1968 novel "a novel about fantasy baseball, though the word 'fantasy' never once appears in the book." Locating religious themes in the novel, while not impossible, requires some effort, certainly compared to his debut novel, The Origin of the Brunists, which is about a religious cult in a coal town. There are neither explicit references to religion nor many allusions, aside from a brief mention of Adam and Eve.

However, if you are committed to a religious theme in the book, one could view the protagonist, Henry Waugh, as a God-like figure. He creates a whole fantasy baseball league, which he plays with dice and a pencil. It is wholly his creation, and he becomes so absorbed in it that he neglects his work as an accountant. He describes his passion and obsession to a woman at a bar: "No, but think of it, Hettie, to do a thing so perfectly that, even if the damn world lasted forever, nobody could ever do it better, because you have done it as well as it could possibly be done" (23). Henry takes it so seriously that he "kills" a player off and then holds a funeral for him.

And also like God, he is a somewhat solitary and aloof figure: "I've been talking to myself all my life" (160). He gives life, he takes it away, he presides over his creation, yet no one understands him. Given that dice are a key part of his game, one might be reminded of Einstein's famous quote, "God doesn't play dice with the universe." In the universe of Henry Waugh's baseball association, he does.

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/09/18/robert-coovers-dark-fantasy-baseball-novel/

Note: Page numbers and quotations refer to the Plume paperback edition of the book.

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