Mysterious Book Report Country HardballCountry Hardball by Steve Weddle

Tyrus Books F & W Media, Inc., $24.99, 207 pages, ISBN 978-1-4405-7080-3

Many who were born and raised in small town America and emigrated from them, remember life there with fond nostalgia.  As my dad used to say, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Yeah, but what about the girls, Pop?  What about them.  The writer Tom Wolfe had an answer.  He said, “You can’t go home again.”  Meaning, I suppose, that those who do return will find it so changed as to be unrecognizable.  I think both axioms have merit, but don’t entirely agree with either one of them . . . and I’m gonna use this week’s MBR to illustrate.

Country Hardball, by Steve Weddle is the first book from a young college professor that’s generating some buzz amongst the literary hierarchy . . . those who’re always interested in something new and different.  One might even go so far as to call it avant-garde, because it pushes the story arc into new, uncharted territory.  The book is made up of a series of what seems like unrelated short stories revolving around one individual’s return to his small rural home town after a ten year absence.  Roy Alison is his name and he’s been away in juvenile detention, jail and halfway houses.  What he finds is a town devoid of hope, clinging to it’s past and devastated by the undefined ‘economic downturn.’  The short-stories are mostly open-ended, without conclusions, which I personally don’t care for because they leave me feeling as if I’ve missed the point somewhere.  The result is a book nihilistic in tone and confusing in aspect.  The dust jacket blurb calls it ‘A powerfully observed and devastatingly understated portrait of the American working class.’ But it left me feeling like I didn’t get enough sleep.  While I hate to be critical of another’s work, because it takes a helluva lot of effort to produce a novel of any kind, and the purpose of this column is to encourage reading . . . my suggestion for this one is to leave it to those in the avant-garde movement who appreciate it.


John Dwaine McKenna