In a short early chapter, we follow Ted, after a game, into the changing room, where he takes off his work uniform (a cardboard box with shoulder straps made to look like a peanut bag) and dons his 'life uniform' (tie-dye shirt, bluejeans and sandals). In terms of dramatic action, that’s pretty much all that happens, but in terms of character background, Duchovny brings us so close to Ted we feel as though we might have caught a contact buzz...But when Ted gets a phone call from a grief counselor at Beth Israel hospital, telling him that his long-estranged father, Marty, is dying of lung cancer, both Ted and the novel pick up the pace. From there, Duchovny finds his rhythm, balancing crisp dialogue with some truly hilarious scenes that draw on the small cast of colorful secondary characters.
...even when nothing happens — a description that applies to the first half of the book — Duchovny’s tone makes the ride a pleasure. He dips into the waters of love, death, fatherhood, marriage and sex, but he doesn’t go too deep. You enjoy the swim without becoming a prune ... Coming in at under 300 pages and with fashionably short chapters, Dent is as fast as it is entertaining. (The story began as a screenplay.) The field of baseball novels has been lit up by greater luminaries — Kinsella, DeLillo, Roth and Malamud, to name a few. But Duchovny has a place in the lineup, kind of like a light-hitting shortstop who shines in key moments.
Though tragedy lurks on several levels, Duchovny finds the humor and poetry in life’s lost causes. The actor originally envisioned the novel as a screenplay, and there are characters—like Ted’s romantic interest—and twists that belong only in the movies. Still, Duchovny proves himself in flashback passages that expose the hearts and fears of little boys and grown men—and how each molds the other.
While the literary air is heavy with insight into death and dying, sins and forgiveness, family and fatherhood, love and sex, Duchovny’s compelling narrative and clever dialogue make it feel weightless, even uplifting ... Not a baseball book any more than Field of Dreams is a baseball book, this moving, beautiful novel resonates with laughter and tears throughout. It will make you want to see your father, have a catch, or a conversation — or wish you could.
The good news is that Duchovny does, from time to time, nail the fraught masculine dynamics that lie at the heart of this indulgent farrago ... Bucky F*ucking Dent isn’t literature. It’s a business arrangement. That being said, it marks an obvious progression from the glib juvenilia of Duchovny’s debut novel, Holy Cow. Here, the hunky actor at least tries to confront the frailties of fathers and sons, how they seek to love each other, and too often fail, despite the 'chasm of need' that lives between them.
Bucky F*ing Dent” could swap in tiddlywinks and be the same book. It feels as if some research has been done by an assistant, and an overestimation of a sports cliche has resulted in a novel that is clearly forced ... I have no idea why this book has baseball in it, and if it could have anything else and still be the same book, that’s a failure. In writing, everything must be integral, and if it’s not, the side has, to large degree, been let down ... Imagistic detail and rhythmic cadence are [Duchovny's] skills. He excels at the vignette, the group of men riffing on jokes with each other, their dialogue overlapping. But you never stop thinking that this book was supposed to be something else, that it was shoe-horned into a novel.