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You Know Me Al (Dodo Press) Paperback – February 19, 2010
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In his day, Ring Lardner was a legendary humorist (a job-description he disavowed), and You Know Me Al shows why everyone loved him so. In the letters of Jack Keefe, a bush-league pitcher who finally gets his chance in the majors, Lardner shows not only a faultless ear, but also a keen eye for the amusing details of human folly. Keefe is no comical bumbler--he has talent--but also possesses astonishing naïvete, and a lack of self-awareness that is unerringly hilarious. The busher blames everyone but himself for his failures (a trait that Lardner uses to wonderful comic effect in the story "Alibi Ike"). Still, thanks to Keefe's mixture of hubris and puppy-dog trust, you want to see him come out all right.
Lardner--who played a role in breaking the infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919--wrote You Know Me Al while covering pro baseball in the teens; for baseball fans, the book is an intriguing glimpse into the past. Athletes haven't changed much, poor devils. They're just as funny as ever, only richer.
From Library Journal
Lardner's famous collection of humorous short stories gets the no-frills treatment from Dover's "Thrift Editions" series. A buck here buys a million dollars worth of laughs.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
There is some clever observation here about human nature that transcends the baseball framework. Jack Keefe, who tells us his story through letters to his friend Al, is an aspiring pitcher starting out in the majors. He would probably be much the same person in any line of work, though, vain about his abilities, blaming his failures on other people or on pure chance, but never on himself, taking full credit for his successes without realizing how others have helped him. He is undisciplined, irresponsible, easily manipulated, and generally clueless. After a couple of near misses with female sports fans, he marries a young woman as irresponsible and unready for married life as himself. Their relationship is rocky, and her demands coupled with his foolishness nearly wreck his career. No doubt they will both mature and work things out, but Lardner never gives in to sentimentality in describing their marriage.
On the positive side, Jack is genuinely talented as a pitcher, and will probably be okay in the long run. He means well, and it's obvious that Al, who never gets to speak for himself, sees something in him worthy of friendship. Jack's devotion to his infant son is touching, although as with everything else in his life, tinged with cluelessness.
Still, apart from the human interest, there is that baseball framework. Well, of course there is. Lardner was a sports writer, writing fiction aimed at baseball fans. He knew the world of professional baseball, at least as it was in his time, and put that knowledge into this book. Unfortunately, at least for a non-fan such as myself, that makes long stretches of this rather short book very tedious. The baseball is inseparable from the story, but for me it was the least interesting part of it. There were lots of smiles here, but also plenty of yawns.
Lardner's journalistic style shines as he's able to write short, concise notes by Jack back to Al in an vernacular & idiom suited for ill-educated but well meaning athlete of the day. I've heard claim that Lardner had an ear for speech patterns and it certainly shows with Jack.
In full agreement with Virginia Woolf in the book's Introduction, I can say you do not have to be a sports fan to enjoy Lardner's humorous portrayal of Jack Keefe, a bush-league pitcher who writes frequent letters to his best pal, Al, about his adventures on and off the baseball field. The letters are filled with hilarious misspellings, misunderstandings, and general bumblings. Jack may be a good athlete, but his mind, shall we say, is his least athletic muscle...
All of which adds to the slim book's charm. Jack writes to Al about his fortunes and misfortunes in pitching, forever blaming others for his own obvious failures, never missing a chance to boast, thumping his manly chest with threats that he will beat up this guy or that for some imagined slight. His arrogance is in high form, but just about the time it approaches the point of no return, Jack charms with his naivete. One can't help but laugh at him again, much as one laughs at a child or a wildly bounding puppy.
The letters are not just about baseball, however, but just as comically illustrate Jack's romantic flailings, as he imagines Violet is ever so smitten with him, then decides to marry another, only to drop her for another, only to long for the first again, only to marry Florrie. With whom the threat of divorce comes up again and again in similar cyclings. Jack waffles with all decisions in his life: team trips, moving from one city to another, borrowing and repaying funds to the silent and surely most patient and near saintly Al.
It is the lack of hearing from the other side that keeps me from adding a fifth star to this review. We have only Jack's view of himself and his world, charming bumbler that he is, and I found myself often wishing for Al's side in response. Nonetheless, this is a classic that can obviously be enjoyed even over a great passage of time since its original writing some eighty years ago, and with or without a penchant for sports.
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My Review is about the Kindle $0.79 version of Ring Lardner’s You Know Me AL.Read more