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Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris

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Henry Wiggen, hero of The Southpaw and the best-known fictional baseball player in America, is back again, throwing a baseball “with his arm and his brain and his memory and his bluff for the sake of his pocket and his family.” More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate is dying of cancer. Bang the Drum Slowly was chosen as one of the top one hundred sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated and appears on numerous other lists of best baseball fiction. In the introduction to this new Bison Books edition Mark Harris discusses the making of the classic 1973 film starring Robert DeNiro, based on his screen adaptation of the book. Also available in Bison Books editions are The Southpaw, It Looked Like For Ever.

Reviews (7)
This book is one of a handful of great American sports novels. And like most great sports novels its not really about sports at all. On the surface the book tells the story of pitcher Henry Wiggin of the New York Mammoths baseball team and a single season in the mid-1950s. But below the surface its the story of Wiggins' friendship with a third string catcher named Bruce Pearson, who is dying of Hodgkin's disease. The story is refreshingly not overly sentimental which it could easily be given the subject matter. Rest assured, the book is full of home runs, stolen bases, solid pitching and locker room antics, but as the Mammoths move late into the summer and the pennant race heats up, the reader knows that the book is really about friendship and the unfairness of life.

Harris uses a somewhat strange first person vernacular to tell the story, but after the first couple of pages it seems as if Henry Wiggin is talking directly to you over a beer or a cup of coffee, telling you about that summer of baseball and what happened to his friend, Bruce. I found the technique enormously effective. I also really enjoyed some of Wiggin's observations about life and the unanswered questions he raises about the human condition. (If we all know we're going to die, why don't we go out and live it up more?)

Harris wrote this novel back in the 1950s and it clearly demonstrates how the status of professional athletes and sports in general have changed in the last half century. As someone who has written about sports in the fifties (HOOP CRAZY: COLLEGE BASKETBALL IN THE 1950S), I found this book to be something of a historical document as well as a terrific novel. All in all, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sports fiction or anyone who liks well written novels in general.
One of the best, albeit underrated baseball (or sports) movies ever made. Not cut from the same mold as more famous "magical realism" films about baseball, eg "The Natural" or "Field of Dreams". This is gritty realism, highlighting the real essence of humanity's attraction to sports, whether as player or spectator- the relationships that get built under fire, almost as a surrogate for watfare bonding. The nobility of what some people will do to try and help a doomed comrade. This could easily have devolved into a "Male Weepy", ala the over the top "Brian's Song", but it maintains its reserve, and thus touches our sense of realism, and becomes the more affecting because of it. Can't believe this never garnered more accolades.
This is a great book. I love baseball but this is a lot more than a baseball story. It is also written in a way that you are taken back to the early 50's when there were no multimillion dollar franchise players and everybody was a regular hard working Joe who had to worry about putting bread on the table. It's a story of friendship and protection of the vulnerable.

It is also worthwhile to get the video from Netflix or the library and enjoy the superior acting of a young Michael Moriarity and an equally young Robert DiNero.

I loved the whole thing. Highly recommended.
One of the greatest baseball novels and a fine novel even without baseball as a theme. The real theme is friendship, loyalty, teamwork, and love told in the voice of a combination of the true author and his alter-ego, Henry Wiggen, a major league pitcher who writes in a Southern patois. The mis-use of words, mis-spelling and down home humor give the book a warmth that comes through with every sentence. Some criticize the lack of sentimentality but the characters are so well developed that the love that Henry has for his dying friend, Bruce, comes through even at the rather abrupt end. Read and re-read the last sentence. A gem.
I liked this book for two reasons. One is that the dialogue and camaraderie between the ball players was realistic right down to their nicknames given to them by teammates such as "Author" and "Canada" The baseball season is realistic as well and of course New York comes out on top.

The friendship between Henry and Bruce is what really makes this story a classic. It doesn't really start off that way since Henry sold insurance to Bruce (back when ballplayers needed a job in the offseason for the extra income) and then finds out afterward about Bruce's condition. The journey Henry takes while his friend is dying is humorous, poignant and sad, yet surprisingly upbeat through most of it. Deserves its status as a classic.
My men's book club read this book. It has a lot of "real men" stuff in it. Baseball, friendship, bonding, locker rooms,mortality, etc. The members of the club enjoyed it a lot. In fact, one of the members who had been reading it over and over since childhood shared that he had read it probably 25 times.

The plot is that Bruce, a third string catcher on the team, gets diagnosed with cancer and has a year to live. Star pitcher and author, Henry, takes it upon himself to make sure that Bruce doesn't get released from the team during his last year and that the last year is a good one. A movie of the book starred Robert Deniroas Bruce and Michael Moriarity as Henry.

The book isn't very long, and we found it a good vehicle for encouraging discussion. I recommend it.
Even if you know the story of Bang the Drum Slowly from the 1973 film version with Robert de Niro as the hapless major league catcher Bruce Pearson and Michael Moriarty as pitcher Henry Wiggen, you should read the book, get in the pace of Pearson's last season, savor the battle of wills over dignity for one person, yes even in baseball. There's less of baseball and more of people in the book.
Very enjoyable read. I read the Southpaw first and glad I did. Always like to read a baseball related book or two around opening day. Funny and touching. A good look at baseball before all the players were millionaires. Expect to read the rest of Henry Wiggins series, maybe next spring. The 70's movie was very good too, love the song Streets of Laredo.

ISBN: 080327338X

Rating: 4.9/5

Votes: 984

Other Formats: mobi azw lit docx

ISBN13: 978-0803273382

Publisher: Bison Books; Second edition (December 1, 2003)

Language: English

Subcategory: Genre Fiction

Pages: 243

Bang the Drum Slowly
Literature & Fiction
Author: Mark Harris
Title: Bang the Drum Slowly