PositiveThe Boston GlobeImagine that this rookie hits 21 home runs in 160 at-bats, and that he is hitting .488 when his career ends. John Grisham imagines that baseball player in Joe Castle, inevitably Calico Joe, since he comes from Calico Rock, Ark. ... Grisham’s narrator is Paul Tracey, the grown son of Warren Tracey, once a journeyman pitcher for the New York Mets. Paul unfolds much of the tale in flashbacks ... Like W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, Calico Joe features teams made up of actual ballplayers and fictional teammates ... It would be inaccurate to characterize Calico Joe as a young reader’s book; there is death in it, and also a stroke ... is not a baseball novel, either, or at least not one upon which the reality of the game is permitted to intrude. Baseball serves as background to the preposterously unlikely achievements of one character so heroic that his doom is certain.
David Ortiz and Michael Holley
PositiveThe Boston GlobeTwo warnings: Those who prefer their profanities out of earshot might consider covering their eyes through parts of this book and those looking for a salacious tell-all will be disappointed ... It’s no surprise that Ortiz resents the sportswriters who asked him about performance-enhancing drugs (which he vehemently denies ever using), particularly the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, 'that [expletive] still walks around like he owns the team.' It was surprising, at least to me, that Ortiz had so little respect for the team’s management ... Given all that, maybe it’s a wonder Papi endured so well and so long. Now his many fans have a book in which the hitter looks back at his extraordinary run and what made it go.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeDebut novelist Chad Harbach does not merely echo Moby Dick. In at least one respect, he goes Mr. Melville one better … Though there’s plenty of baseball in The Art of Fielding, Harbach’s novel is no more about the game than Moby Dick is about whaling … The invocations of Melville’s ambition and achievement are lightened by the fun Harbach has with his characters, at least when they’re not in peril … At his best, Harbach energetically propels varied characters through a rambling story that is entertaining in part because the author himself often doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously.