Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.
The place is Brooklyn, the time is the early '40s, and young baseball fanatic Joey needs a hero badly in his life. How that hero becomes Charlie--and ultimately Joey himself--forms the dimensions of the novel's field, but it's the way the game is played that's so remarkable. The story's told not through conventional narrative but by way of Joey's abstract scrapbook: letters, postcards, news clippings, box scores, report cards, matchbook covers, dispatches from FDR, telegrams, even an invitation to Joey's own Bar Mitzvah and the gift list from the affair.
Delightful throughout, Summer develops a deeper traction when Charlie goes off to war, then turns poignant in its seemingly preordained aftermath. It is a triumph of style, to be sure, but a triumph of style without loss of substance. --Jeff Silverman