The initial mixed response to The Natural focused on the novel's interplay of realism and fantasy. Harry Sylvester in his review in the New York Times insists the work is "an unusually fine novel ... What [Malamud] has done is to contrive a sustained and elaborate allegory in which the 'natural' player... is equated with the natural man who, left alone by, say politicians and advertising agencies, might achieve his real fulfillment." He closes his review claiming that The Natural is "a brilliant and unusual book."
Not all reviewers, however, found the narrative successful. J. J. Maloney's review in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review argues that the novel is a "troubled mixture of fantasy and realism in which the fantasy is fantastic enough, but the realism is not very real." While he appreciates the subject matter, he finds that "it is unfortunate that The Natural, which is a serious novel about baseball, should have been written by a man who seems to be completely a captive of the present fashionable cult of the obscure." E, J. Fitzgerald in the Saturday Review, offers the following review: "Bernard Malamud has taken some potentially exciting material and gone all mystical...
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