Frank Batavick

Batavick“Everybody remembers a super athlete from high school, one who received mass adulation and from whom great things were expected once he made the transition to the big world beyond twelfth grade. There are two books that absolutely hit the nail on the head for this topic, and either might qualify as a candidate for the “Great American Novel” we’ve patiently been waiting for since Huckleberry Finn.

Jon Updike Rabbit, Run book cover

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The first is John Updike’s Rabbit, Run in which we meet a star basketball player whose currency gets devalued after graduation. His name is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, and he left his slice of the American Dream and his fifteen minutes of fame back on the hardwood. Harry gets married, has a kid, and ends up selling MagiPeeler, a kitchen gadget, but can’t get rid of the emptiness inside.  Booze and a fling with a prostitute offer no remedy. It all ends badly, but Updike’s powerful prose and gift for description make the journey memorable. If you like the book, you should continue with the rest of Updike’s pentalogy: Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, and Rabbit Remembered. Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Philip Roth American Pastoral book cover

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Updike’s professional rival was Philip Roth and his contribution to this special genre was American Pastoral. The book focuses on the once golden life of Seymour “Swede” Levov who lettered in three sports, fought in World War II, and came home to take over his father’s glove business. But the real action is centered on the sordid escapades of his teenage daughter who is radicalized by the nation’s Vietnam misadventure and gets involved with domestic terrorists. Roth’s attention to detail recreates the discordant atmosphere of 1968 that ripped apart families and country alike. American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is considered by many, including the New York Times Book Review, as one of the greatest works of American fiction in the last 25 years.”

Frank Batavick is a retired television writer/producer/director who, over his 40-year career, produced a wide range of live and recorded programs, from documentaries to talk shows. His work has garnered more than 60 national and international awards, including a Peabody and a regional Emmy. Living in Maryland, he is a weekly columnist and occasional feature writer for the Carroll County Times.