Henry Wiggen, hero of The Southpaw and the best-known fictional baseball player in America, is back again, throwing a baseball “with his arm and his brain and his memory and his bluff for the sake of his pocket and his family.” More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate is dying of cancer.
Bang the Drum Slowly was chosen as one of the top one hundred sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated and appears on numerous other lists of best baseball fiction. In the introduction to this new Bison Books edition Mark Harris discusses the making of the classic 1973 film starring Robert DeNiro, based on his screen adaptation of the book. Also available in Bison Books editions are The Southpaw, It Looked Like For Ever.
Sure, Harris's most acclaimed novel, the second of his Henry Wiggen books, centers around a pair of ballplayers for the fictionally fabled New York Mammoths--the novel's narrator, pitcher Wiggen, and Bruce Pearson, his tag-along catcher and best friend. And sure, on one level, it's the conventional tale of a disparate dugout population cohering over the course of a season and marching ineluctably toward the World Series. But convention, like a 55-foot curveball, ends there and then scoots off in its own unpredictable direction. Harris's story--funny, bittersweet, and affecting--is, in the end, a haunting meditation on life, death, friendship, and loyalty. That it's set against the backdrop of the Major Leagues makes it a baseball novel. That it's a brilliant study of human nature, passionately felt and beautifully crafted, makes it enduring literature. --Jeff Silverman