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A Fan's Notes Paperback – August 12, 1988
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Frederick Exley recounts his life as the son of a hero-worshipped high school athlete who is doomed to be a spectator not only of sports, but of life. From irresponsible drifter, to dreamer of impossible dreams, to drunkard, to frequent patient at an insane asylum, Exley carried baggage from his childhood through much of his adult life, never feeling he could escape the dark cloud of expectation that hung over him. When Frank Gifford, former New York Giants backfield star, is injured, Exley is jolted into painful realizations about his life, and a confession.
Mr. Exley is a very good writer . . . there's a lot of wit and bravado in this book, but it's more painful than funny. -- The Nation
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For those of us who lived in 'Watertown', wherever your city might be, Exley's portraits of its residents and traditions and gathering places are, truly, breath-taking. Time stood still: I could find these places; I knew the 'salesman' types and whatever; the bars and restaurants were still there. And I contributed my heart out to that city, helping in a small way for it to be the 'Home of the Tenth Mountain Division', long after Exley's wonderful work.
Further recommendations based on Exley's great book: "Notes of a Baseball Dreamer," by Robert Mayer and "Wait Till Next Year," by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Despite Exley's effortless writing, however, the "stranger" in this book started to tire this reader by the middle of the novel. I think part of it is because one doesn't get the sense that Frederick grew in his experiences. Sure, he recounts them (and, believe me, he does). However, he fails to progress or take into account how he treats those around him -- including his wife, children, etc. If the point is that he didn't want to be a "fan" in his own life, perhaps he might have started by taking an interest in others, especially those close to him. I understand that the character's mental illness could have made such an action difficult, but it can make getting through such an extended monologue difficult too.
Exley's dismal failures perfectly contrasted his hilarious escapades to the point that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was painful to witness him stumble through relationships, the occasional job, and repeatedly end up in a mental institution where he discovers the definition of insanity; "The inability to function in society."
It's hard to watch someone whose talents go to waste or one who doesn't live up to his or her potential, so I was happy to see that by publishing this book, Exley must have finally overcome his demons, or at least succeeded in holding them at bay for a while. For in the end, he became an artist whose "...heart will always be with the drunk, the poet, the prophet, the criminal, the painter, the lunatic, with all whose aims are insulated from the humdrum business of life."
Written by David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"