The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel. published in 1952, is also the first — and some would say still the best — literary novel written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals ot postwar Jewish life, takes on very different material — the story of a superbly gifted “natural’ at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era — and invests it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that runs through all his best work. Four decades after the novel’s publication, Alfred Kazin’s comment still holds true: “Malamud has done something which — now that he has done it! — looks as if we have been waiting for it all our lives. He has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology”.