Another baseball themed book to welcome the Cubs' Home Opener and baseball season in general. The Newberry book group read "The Fixer" by Malamud in 2007 and I vaguely remember the movie version of "The Natural" so I was not expecting an upper. This was Malamud's first novel, which I learned after finishing the story.
I can only imagine the writing process. Picking baseball as the game in this book, and how the main character makes his living and expresses his talent, allows Malamud to hang a lot on the theme. Baseball is romantic, it is America's sport. It's a sport where the individual is important but you also play with a team. A lot of men play it because teams are large but there is a whole farm league system so it can take a lot to get to the big leagues and the main team.
The story reminded me of "The Great Gatsby" which was published 27 years earlier. There is a man in love with a woman who does not love him as a person, but does love what he can give her. Nothing will ever be enough for her and the man begins to realize that in the course of the story. He will never have enough money, or fame, to make her happy.
Roy Hobbs can't win - in every sense of the word. His early career is cut short due to a woman, his comeback is tainted by a woman. His bat fails him and he goes through a terrible slump. He is one person but his whole team is affected by his ups and downs. He has talent but it's a specific talent playing a game and that won't last forever. Once that is gone and the public has moved onto the next sports hero he will no longer exist.
Malamud is a great writer. I'm not sure if you asked if I would say "oh, you have to read this book". It might be a good one for a book group so you could talk about it with other people. I enjoyed the book but it was depressing.