In today’s session, we read part VII (7). After meeting Irish, swimming with her and making love, Roy seems to change course and is seriously chasing after Memo again. What?!? This guy is crazy! Can’t he see which woman is better for him? Even he admits to himself that Memo is not the domestic housewife/mother type, yet still he lusts after her. What an idiot!
He carries a letter from Iris around with him, but he doesn’t read it! Instead, he eats and eats and eats and finally gets sick. Ha! Serves him right! He cannot control his appetites, either for food or for sex, or for fame and glory on the baseball diamond.
Thanks to all who attended the April meeting, where we read part 5 of “The Natural”.
We had a lively discussion about the ending of this part: why does the lady in red leave the stadium so quickly? Why do the other fans leave, too? Which fans? The Knights’ fans, because they assume their team has lost? Or the opposing team’s fans because they assume THEY have lost?
Our next meeting will be May 30th, when we will read part 6.
It’s a great love song for Chris’ wife, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to repair the relationship between them: she divorced him soon after!)
And what is “The Fairy Wood”? A while back, some of you enjoyed reading an earlier story from the Words of Peace website called All in Good Time about a fig tree, so perhaps you will enjoy The Fairy Wood, too, a personal reminiscence of a beautiful childhood memory.
In February’s meeting, we read Batter Up! Part 3 which begins with Bump Bailey’s death, and ends with Roy having dinner with Memo Paris, Max Mercy and a new character, Gus Sands, a “bookie” with a glass eye.
We discussed the various meanings of “hit the wall”, the associations of worms in English/Western literature and culture (I forgot to mention that “worm” has an old meaning of “snake” and is sometimes used to refer to the snake/Satan in the Garden of Eden; in Old English, “worm” was also used as a synonym for “dragon” – see “The Worm Ouroboros”, and “The Hobbit” (chapter XV) by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The king is come unto his hall, Under the Mountain dark and tall. The Worm of Dread is slain and dead, And ever so our foes shall fall!“), and why Roy does not want anyone to know about his past.
Our next meeting will be March 7 at 3 pm (not 3:15)
Today we finished reading the first section of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural”. This first section is called “Pre-game”. It ends with a shocking event: Roy Hobbs is shot by a mad girl in a Chicago hotel, before he even has a chance to try out for a baseball team!
It is difficult to appreciate The Natural without some knowledge of the mythological traditions behind it. The most important of these are the legends of the Waste Land and the Fisher King. Malamud loosely based his novel on the story of Sir Perceval and his quest for the Holy Grail, originally recorded in the eleventh century by the French writer Chrétien de Troyes.
In Chrétien’s story, Perceval starts out as a country bumpkin, much like Roy. Raised in the forest by an overprotective mother, he has little knowledge of manners or chivalry. One day, Perceval meets several knights of King Arthur, and he immediately wants to join them. He goes to Camelot, but Arthur refuses to make him a knight until he proves himself. Perceval goes out to do so, and he proves his worth by winning many matches; he turns out to be a surprisingly good knight. Perceval meets a knight who arms him and teaches him about chivalry, particularly the idea that he should not chatter, and should instead remain quiet most of the time. Perceval plans to return to his mother and show her his new skills, but he is waylaid by an infatuation with a woman named Blancheflor.
Finally, one day, Perceval comes upon a strange castle. Inside is an old man, who presents Perceval with a fine sword. Perceval then witnesses a strange procession: several youths enter the hall carrying a bleeding lance, golden candelabra, and a golden grail. Perceval, remembering the advice of the knight who instructed him, decides to stay quiet and wait to ask the old man about the mysterious procession until the next morning. When Perceval wakes up, however, he finds the castle and its inhabitants have disappeared. He rides on and meets a woman who tells him that if he had only asked the right questions, he would have learned about the lance and the Holy Grail and could have healed the Fisher King, and thus also the Waste Land.
Though Chrétien died before he finished the story of Perceval, scholars are reasonably sure, based on the sources from which Chrétien worked, that Perceval returned to the Fisher King and, swallowing his pride, asked the questions necessary to obtain the Grail and heal the King.
This typhoon seems to be marking the passing of summer and the arrival of autumn. It is already September.
Our September meeting will take place September 28th, the last Wednesday in September, at the usual time, 15:15.
We will finish reading “Rembrandt’s Hat” and begin reading “The Natural”. If you have not received your photocopy of the beginning of “The Natural”, please email me and I will be glad to send you a PDF version.