This epistolary novel is in the vernacular of its hero, Jack Keefe, a small-town, greenhorn, bush-league baseball player, who writes letters to a friend back in his home town. Keefe is naive and a simpleton, blighted by his immense ego and hauteur. Neither the book’s subject matter nor its vernacular language (referred to as ‘Lardner Ringlish’) was within the comfort zone of a literary world endowed with the patrician sensibilities of Henry James or Edith Wharton (Lardner’s almost exact contemporary). Yet it is possible to claim that Ring Lardner is the true American literary ambassador of his era. This book was written in 1914 for The Saturday Evening Post, and published in book form in 1916. We see the world of baseball during its Silver Age, that is before the great Black Sox Scandal of 1919 which altered the sport’s image (and perhaps helped to smash Lardner’s perception of it).
Ring Lardner ranks alongside Jack London, Damon Runyon, W. C. Heinz and James T. Farrell as one of the great fictional sports writers of America in the twentieth century.
ABPress, 2021 (1916)