Sunday, March 20, 2011

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

Robert Coover, 1968
If CSPAN can dedicate its weekends to books and literature, so can this blog.  I’ll kick off this what- I- plan- to- be-weekly-category with what I think is one of my favorite books ever (Blood Meridian will always be number one, with no close second,) but am certain is my favorite baseball themed work of fiction:  The Universal Baseball Association, Inc, J. Henry Waugh, Prop.
In brief, it’s the story of 56 year old accountant, Henry Waugh, who has developed a table top baseball dice game, (think Strat-O-Matic).  He’s expanded the game to include a fully realized fictional world enveloping the games that are played out nightly on his kitchen table.    The players are all creations of Henry’s imagination, and each has their own backgrounds, stories and nuances.   From the beginning, the reader understands that Henry is having more and more trouble separating his banal, but real life from the fantasy world he has created.   Written in 1968, the book is relevant today.  It is darkly funny, sad and at times, frightening as the lines blur between fantasy and reality for Henry.    
I read this book about 10 years ago, and recently re-read it with a whole new understanding of the story.  You could easily equate the dice game Henry created with so much of the modern technology that gives us the chance to be a god controlling our own little worlds.     There is a lot of scholarship about this book out in cyberspace that can break the book down more eloquently than I can, so I won’t try to write an essay about it.  But I do highly recommend the book. 

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