Mark Harris Edward J. Fitzgerald - Essay

Edward J. Fitzgerald

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In] time for the opening of the 1953 season Mark Harris has come up with a novel, "The Southpaw" … that is the best straight—as distinguished from Lardner's satirical—treatment of baseball we have yet had. Mr. Harris has written a serious novel, skilfully using the folklore and mythology of baseball to illuminate some pleasant and unpleasant aspects of contemporary American character.

His story is the story of Henry Wiggen…. A phenomenal player, Henry shot quickly into place on the fabulous team of the New York Mammoths … and in a short time was well on his way to becoming one of baseball's "immortals." In the course of these developments—told in a semiliterate first-person prose—Henry learned, as will the reader, a great deal about the racket as well as the game of baseball, about himself, and about the American veneration for and sacrifices to the symbols of success.

Mr. Harris's novelistic achievement is a considerable one. He has taken a long, serious, and penetrating look at American mores and morals. And he has done this while telling a highly dramatic, colorful, and absorbingly exciting action story.

Edward J. Fitzgerald, "Jeu de Spring," in The Saturday Review, New York (copyright © 1953 by Saturday Review; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXXVI, No. 15, April 11, 1953, p. 58.