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Book Report: The Great American Novel

It was probably a mistake to pull The Great American Novel off the shelf for another read-through, but I more or less enjoyed it anyway. Philip Roth must be amused by the idea that if you search Google for “the great American novel” the first thing that comes up is his book. Still, it’s a little too headline-ripped for my taste at the moment. So, for your depression, here’s a little excerpt from the conversation between rookie phenom Roland Agni and seventeen-year-old sabermatrician and chemical genius Isaac Ellis, after Isaac offers Roland some adulterated Wheaties for his last-place teammates.

“But—but, if I feed the boys these Wheaties—is that what you want me to do?”
“Exactly! Every morning, just a little sprinkle!”
“And we win—?”
“Yes! You win!”
“But—that’s be like throwin’ a game.”
“Like what?
“Like throwin’ it. I mean, we’d be winnin’ when we’re supposed to be losin’—and that’s wrong. That’s illegal!”
“Throwing a game, Roland, is losing when you’re supposed to be winning. Winning instead of losing is what you’re supposed to do!”
“But not by eating Wheaties!”
Precisely by eating Wheaties! That’s the whole idea of Wheaties!”
“But that’s real Wheaties! And they don’t make you do it anyway!”
“Then how can they be ‘real’ Wheaties, if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do?”
“That’s what makes them ‘real’!”
“No, that’s what makes them unreal. Their Wheaties say they’re supposed to make you win—and they don’t! My Wheaties say they’re supposed to make you win—and they do! How can that be wrong, Roland, or illegal? That is keeping your promises! That is being true to your word! I am going to make the most hopeless baseball team in history into a team of red-blooded American boys! And you call that ‘throwing a game’? I am talking about winning, Roland, winning—what made this country what it is today! Who in his right mind can be against that?

Thank you,

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