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.