Mark Harris

Mark Harris

Easton Press Mark Harris books

The Southpaw - 1998
Bang The Drum Slowly - signed modern classic - 2003

Author Mark Harris

Mark Harris was an American author and educator known for his contributions to literature, particularly his acclaimed baseball tetralogy and his exploration of complex social issues. Born on November 19, 1922, in Mount Vernon, New York, as Mark Harris Finkelstein, he became a notable figure in mid-20th-century American literature. Harris served in the U.S. Army during World War II, an experience that profoundly influenced his later works. After the war, he pursued his education at the University of Denver, earning a bachelor's degree in 1947 and a master's degree in 1951. Harris then completed his Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota in 1956.

Harris began his literary career as a writer and editor for magazines, including Esquire and Horizon. However, he gained widespread recognition with the publication of his first novel, Bang the Drum Slowly (1956). This novel, the second in his baseball tetralogy, follows the lives of baseball players and explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the impact of terminal illness. The book was later adapted into a successful film in 1973. The success of Bang the Drum Slowly was followed by three more novels, forming the baseball tetralogy: The Southpaw (1953), A Ticket for a Seamstitch (1957), and It Looked Like For Ever (1979). Together, these works painted a vivid picture of the world of baseball, blending sports with deep character studies and social commentary. Mark Harris continued to explore social issues in his later works, including Something About a Soldier (1957), a non-fiction account of the military during the Korean War. He also delved into satire with the novel Wake Up, Stupid (1959) and continued to write about diverse themes in subsequent novels.

In addition to his career as a novelist, Harris held academic positions at various institutions, including Purdue University and the University of Southern California. He was known for his commitment to exploring the intersection of literature and culture. Mark Harris's literary contributions earned him accolades and recognition, solidifying his place in American literature. His ability to infuse his writing with social consciousness and his exploration of the human condition through diverse characters set him apart as a distinctive voice in mid-20th-century American literature. Harris passed away on May 30, 2007, leaving behind a legacy of novels that continue to be celebrated for their insight, wit, and exploration of the complexities of the human experience.

Bang The Drum Slowly

The Southpaw - Henry Wiggen series book 1

The Southpaw is a story about coming of age in America by way of the baseball diamond. Lefthander Henry Wiggen, six feet three, a hundred ninety-five pounds, and the greatest pitcher going, grows to manhood in a right-handed world. From his small-town beginnings to the top of the game, Henry finds out how hard it is to please his coach, his girl, and the sports page and himself, too all at once. Written in Henry’s own words, this exuberant, funny novel follows his eccentric course from bush league to the World Series. Although Mark Harris loves and writes tellingly about the pleasures of baseball, his primary subject has always been the human condition and the shifts of mortal men and women as they try to understand and survive what life has dealt them.

"First off I must tell you something about myself, Henry Wiggen, and where I was born and my folks." The opening sentence of the first installment of Harris's majestic quartet of baseball-centered novels may not be as imprinted on the literary consciousness as "Call me Ishmael," but the true aficionados of sporting belles-lettres deemed it, right from its 1953 publication, a quality start. They are the words that introduced both Wiggen, one of the true all-star characters of postwar American fiction, and the story-telling device that is his memoir.
Wiggen, a big, burly lefthander who grew up halfway between New York and Albany, pitches as much with his head as his arm, and he tends to be somewhat out of synch with everyone around him--parents, teammates, coaches, even his girlfriend; no one has a grip on him. The novel traces the arc of his life from the small town where he grew up to his thrashing around the bush leagues to the spotlight that's on him every time he takes the mound for the fabled, fictional New York Mammoths. Through Wiggen, Harris takes the pulse of postwar America; what he finds is sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes poignant, and always absorbing. Like a good pitch, Harris hurls a classic novel with considerable pace, plenty of movement, and a knack for artfully catching life's corners instead of powering its way obviously right down the pipe. - Jeff Silverman

"By far the best 'serious' baseball novel published," the San Francisco Chronicle wrote of 'The Southpaw' a critical response that is frequently echoed in discussions of all four of Mark Harris' novels about Henry Wiggen.

The Southpaw is definitive Wiggen, telling of his start in baseball, and his essential "good guy" nature of a lefty in a right-hand sport.

Bang The Drum Slowly - Henry Wiggen series book 2

Bang the Drum Slowly is the second in a series of four novels written by Mark Harris that chronicles the career of baseball player Henry W. Wiggen. This series is among the finest novels ever written to use baseball as a theme. First published in 1956, the book is a simple, moving testament to the immutable power of friendship. The title page in the novel reads; "by Henry W. Wiggen / Certain of His Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris", the author’s personal touch that tells us (the reader) that we are about to enter a genial, conversational first-person story.

Henry Wiggin, Harris's major league southpaw, narrates the story of the last season of a teammate and of the tragic knowledge which the team must share. Acclaimed as one of the finest baseball novels. Adapted as a film with Michael Moriarty, Robert DeNiro, Vincent Gardenia and Danny Aiello in his debut.

Henry Wiggen, hero of The Southpaw and the best-known fictional baseball player in America, is back again, throwing a baseball “with his arm and his brain and his memory and his bluff for the sake of his pocket and his family.” More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate is dying of cancer.

Wiggen is a gifted pitcher in the major leagues, playing for a team that includes a mediocre catcher named Bruce Pearson--a slow-talking Georgia boy who tries the patience of the team. Pearson has a secret; he has been diagnosed with Hodgkins’ disease which threatens not only his life but also the baseball career that he so desperately wants. When Wiggen learns of Pearson’s illness, their casual acquaintanceship deepens into a profound friendship. Wiggen fights heroically to keep Pearson on the team, saving his friend from being sent down to the minors, and he also rallies other teammates to help his friend. The miracle is that Pearson is transformed into a better ballplayer... but the miracle is brief for the man’s time has already run out.
Bang the Drum Slowly was chosen as one of the top one hundred sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated and appears on numerous other lists of best baseball fiction. In the introduction to this new Bison Books edition Mark Harris discusses the making of the classic 1973 film starring Robert DeNiro, based on his screen adaptation of the book. Also available in Bison Books editions are The Southpaw, It Looked Like For Ever.

In lesser hands, this story could be cloying or overly sentimental, but Harris writes with a gentle, unassuming dignity. His freewheeling colloquial style verges on an easy stream of consciousness. Wiggen is an engaging character and his observations are lucid and refreshing. The characters are wonderfully realized, from the drawling Pearson to team manager Dutch Schnell. It may be that what makes Bang the Drum Slowlya great novel is that it is not entirely a sports novel but also a warm human comedy complete with believable real-life tragic events, set in the familiar, magical world of American baseball.

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