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Ring Lardner's wonderful epistolary novel is not merely a seminal baseball book, it is one of the funniest, most savage satires ever written.  Jack Keefe is a physically gifted but mentally dense pitching prospect for the Chicago White Sox.  In his unintentionally revealing letters home to his friend Al, he repeatedly demonstrates that his overweening ego makes him completely immune to sarcasm from coaches and fellow players, time and again mistaking their acid comments for genuine praise.  The letters--replete with chaotic syntax and, shall we say, creative spelling--trace Jack's rise from swell headed phenom to stunned bush leaguer, back to the majors and to stardom.  Along the way he meets many of the great baseball figures of the day--Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Charlie Comiskey, etc.--attracts and loses several Baseball Annies (his success with the ladies not surprisingly following his fortunes with the team) and all the while remains blissfully unaware of the less than innocent intentions and innuendoes of those around him.

In Lardner's day, the best writers on a newspaper were often to be found on the Sports page (This is no longer the case, particularly since Red Smith--the single most underrated writer in American Literature--passed away.) and Lardner was certainly among the best of this breed.  Though he did not really sour on sports until the disillusionment of the Black Sox scandal, this book is deliciously crusty and acerbic.  Though writers like Mark Harris (see Orrin's review of Bang the Drum Slowly) and Jim Brosnan and Jim Bouton are often credited with being the first to treat sports realistically, You Know Me, Al offers a clear eyed look at the kind of selfish, egocentric, undereducated, blowhard who remains the norm in sports to this day.

This is a truly funny book and a marvelous corrective to hero worship.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

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Sports (Baseball)
Book-related and General Links:
    -Encyclopaedia Britannica: Your search: "ring lardner"
    -MIDI FILE: & Lyrics GEE, IT'S A WONDERFUL GAME ©1911, Lyrics by Ring Lardner - Music by G. Harris (Doc) White
    -PAL:  Chapter 7: Early Twentieth Century - Ringgold Wilmer Lardner (1885-1933)  (Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Ring Lardner Page
    -Guide to Baseball Fiction: Ring Lardner (1885-1933)
    -1963 J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner: Ring Lardner (Baseball Hall of Fame)
    -ETEXT: You Know Me, Al
    -ETEXTS: Ring W. Lardner Sr. On-Line Writings
    -ESSAY: Why Ring Lardner thought the first Dempsey vs. Tunney fight was fixed
    -ESSAY: Representations and Conceptions of the Chicago Black Sox
    -REVIEW: of George W. Hilton, editor. The Annotated Baseball Stories of Ring W. Lardner, 1914-1919 (Leverett T. Smith, The Bibliography Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research)
    -REVIEW: Elizabeth Hardwick: Ring, NY Review of Books
        The Ring Lardner Reader edited by Maxwell Geismar
    -REVIEW: Robert Towers: A Silent Ring, NY Review of Books
        Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner by Jonathan Yardley
    -REVIEW: Roger Sale: A Family Matter, NY Review of Books
        The Lardners: My Family Remembered by Ring Lardner, Jr.
        Some Champions by Ring Lardner, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, and
        Richard Layman
        The Story of a Wonder Man by Ring Lardner
    -ESPN: Essential Baseball Library (Rob Neyer)

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