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3.9 38
by Bernard Malamud

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Biting, witty, provocative, and sardonic, Bernard Malamud's The Natural is widely considered to be the premier basebal novel of all time. It tells the story of Roy Hobbs--an athlete born with rare and wondrous gifts--who is robbed of his prime playing years by a youthful indiscretion that nearly consts him his life. But at an age when most players are


Biting, witty, provocative, and sardonic, Bernard Malamud's The Natural is widely considered to be the premier basebal novel of all time. It tells the story of Roy Hobbs--an athlete born with rare and wondrous gifts--who is robbed of his prime playing years by a youthful indiscretion that nearly consts him his life. But at an age when most players are considering retirement, Roy reenters the game, lifting the lowly New York Knights from last place into pennant contention and becoming an instant hero in the process. Now all he has to worry about is the fixers, the boss, the slump, the jinx, the fans...and the dangerously seductive Memo Paris, the one woman Roy can't seem to get out of his mind.

"A brilliant and unusually fine novel."(— The New York Times)

"The finest novel about baseball since Ring Lardner left the scene."(— St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"One of our greatest prose writer--and one of our keenest and most disturbing moralists."(— The Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Malamud [holds a] high and honored place among contemporary American writers."(— Washington Post Book World)

"A preposterously readable tale about life."(— Time)

"There seems to me no writer of his background who comes so close to the bone of human feeling, who makes one feel so keenly the enigmatic quality of life."(— Alfred Kazin)

"When I reread Malamud, it will recall to me the American literature I love."(— The New York Times Book Review)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A brilliant and unusually fine novel.” —The New York Times

“A preposterously readable story about life.” —Time

“Malamud [holds a] high and honored place among contemporary American writers.” —Washington Post Book World

“The finest novel about baseball since Ring Lardner left the scene.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.13(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.66(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Roy Hobbes pawed at the glass before thinking to prick a match with his thumbnail and hold the spurting flame in his cupped palm close to the lower berth window, but by then he had figured it was a tunnel they were passing through and was no longer surprised at the bright sight of himself holding a yellow light over his head, peering back in. As the train yanked its long tail out of the thundering tunnel, the kneeling reflection dissolved and he felt a splurge of freedom at the view of the moon-hazed Western hills bulked against night broken by sprays of summer lightning, although the season was early spring. Lying back, elbowed up on his long side, sleepless still despite the lulling train, he watched the land flowing and waited with suppressed expectancy for a sight of the Mississippi, a thousand miles away.

Having no timepiece he appraised the night and decided it was moving toward dawn. As he was looking, there flowed along this bone-white farmhouse with sagging skeletal porch, alone in untold miles of moonlight, and before it this white-faced, long-boned boy whipped with train-whistle yowl a glowing ball to someone hidden under a dark oak, who shot it back without thought, and the kid once more wound and returned. Roy shut his eyes to the sight because if it wasn't real it was a way he sometimes had of observing himself, just as in this dream he could never shake off--that had hours ago waked him out of sound sleep--of him standing at night in a strange field with a golden baseball in his palm that all the time grew heavier as he sweated to settle whether to hold on or fling it away. But when he had madehis decision it was too heavy to lift or let fall (who wanted a hole that deep?) so he changed his mind to keep it and the thing grew fluffy light, a white rose breaking out of its hide, and all but soared off by itself, but he had already sworn to hang on forever.

As dawn tilted the night, a gust of windblown rain blinded him--no, there was a window--but the sliding drops made him thirsty and from thirst sprang hunger. He reached into the hammock for his underwear to be first at breakfast in the dining car and make his blunders of ordering and eating more or less in private, since it was doubtful Sam would be up to tell him what to do. Roy peeled his gray sweatshirt and bunched down the white ducks he was wearing for pajamas in case there was a wreck and he didn't have time to dress. He acrobated into a shirt, pulled up the pants of his good suit, arching to draw them high, but he had crammed both feet into one leg and was trapped so tight wriggling got him nowhere. He worried because here he was straitjacketed in the berth without much room to twist around in and might bust his pants or have to buzz the porter, which he dreaded. Grunting, he contorted himself this way and that till he was at last able to grab and pull down the cuff and with a gasp loosened his feet and got the caught one where it belonged. Sitting up, he Bartered his socks, tied laces, got on a necktie and even squirmed into a suit coat so that when he parted the curtains to step out he was fully dressed.

Dropping to all fours, he peered under the berth for his bassoon case. Though it was there he thought he had better open it and did but quickly snapped it shut as Eddie, the porter, came walking by.

"Morning, maestro, what's the tune today'"

"It ain't a musical instrument." Roy explained it was something he had made himself.

"Animal, vegetable, or mineral?"

"Just a practical thing."

"A pogo stick?"


"Foolproof lance?"


"Lemme guess," Eddie said, covering his eyes with his long-fingered hand and pawing the air with the other. "I have it--combination fishing rod, gun, and shovel."

Roy laughed. "How far to Chicago, Eddie?"

"Chi? Oh, a long, long ways. I wouldn't walk."

"I don't intend to."

"Why Chi?" Eddie asked. "Why not New Orleans? That's a lush and Frenchy city."

"Never been there."

"Or that hot and hilly town, San Francisco?"

Roy shook his head. "Why not New York, colossus of colossuses?"

"Some day I'll visit there."

"Where have you visited?"

Roy was embarrassed. "Boise."

"That dusty sandstone quarry."

"Portland too when I was small."

"In Maine?"

"No, Oregon--where they hold the Festival of Roses."

"Oregon--where the refugees from Minnesota and the Dakotas go?"

"I wouldn't know," Roy said. "I'm going to Chicago, where the Cubs are."

"Lions and tigers in the zoo?"

"No, the ballplayers."

"Oh, the ball--" Eddie clapped a hand to his mouth. "Are you one of them?"

"I hope to be."

The porter bowed low. "My hero. Let me kiss your hand."

Roy couldn't help but smile yet the porter annoyed and worried him a little. He had forgotten to ask Sam when to tip him, morning or night, and how much? Roy had made it a point, since their funds were so low, not to ask for anything at all but last night Eddie had insisted on fixing a pillow behind his back, and once when he was trying to locate the men's room Eddie practically took him by the hand and led him to it. Did you hand him a dime after that or grunt a foolish thanks as he had done? He'd personally be glad when the trip was over, though he certainly hated to be left alone in a place like Chicago. Without Sam he'd feel shaky-kneed and unable to say or do simple things like ask for directions or know where to go once you had dropped a nickel into the subway.

After a troublesome shave in which he twice drew blood he used one thin towel to dry his hands, face, and neck, clean his razor and wipe up the wet of his toothbrush so as not to have to ask for another and this way keep the bill down. From the flaring sky out the window it looked around half-past five, but he couldn't be sure because somewhere near they left Mountain Time and lost-no, picked up-yes, it was lost an hour, what Sam called the twenty-three hour day. He packed his razor, toothbrush, and pocket comb into a chamois drawstring bag, rolled it up small and kept it handy in his coat pocket. Passing through the long sleeper, he entered the diner anti would gladly have sat down to breakfast, for his stomach had contracted into a bean at the smell of food, but the shirt-sleeved waiters in stocking caps were joshing around as they gobbled fried kippers and potatoes. Roy hurried through the largewindowed club car, empty for once, through several sleepers, coaches, a lounge and another long line of coaches, till he came to the last one, where amid the, gloom of drawn shades and sleeping people tossed every which way, Sam Simpson also slept although Roy had last night begged him to take the berth but the soft-voiced Sam had insisted, "You take the bed. kiddo, you're the one that has to show what you have got on the ball when we pull into the city. It don't matter where I sleep."

Sam lay very still on his back, looking as if the breath of life had departed from him except that it was audible in the ripe snore that could be chased without waking him, Roy had discovered, if you hissed scat. His lean head was held up by a folded pillow and his scrawny legs, shoeless, hung limp oven the arm of the double seat he had managed to acquire, for he had started out with a seat partner. He was an expert conniver where his comfort was concerned, and since that revolved mostly around the filled flat bottle his ability to raise them up was this side of amazing. He often said he would not die of thirst though he never failed to add, in Roy's presence, that he wished for nobody the drunkard's death.

Meet the Author

Bernard Malamud (1914–1986) wrote eight novels; he won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Fixer, and the National Book Award for The Magic Barrel, a book of stories. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he taught for many years at Bennington College in Vermont.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 28, 1914
Date of Death:
March 18, 1986
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
Place of Death:
New York, New York
B.A., City College of New York, 1936; M.A., Columbia University, 1942

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The Natural 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Struggling to pursue a professional baseball career, Rob Hobbs, a character in The Natural, overcomes many obstacles in his first year as the Rookie. Roy moves to the crowded and sleepless city of New York as he adapts to the celebrity lifestyle of parties and meeting new people, most of them being girls. Bernard Malamud, the author, is successful in creating a realistic setting through the use of hectic moods and a party-like atmosphere. As Roy takes on new responsibilities, his main struggle is trying to balance everything while still playing a spectacular game night after night, a stability that not everyone is able to achieve. Roy enters the baseball world with a great deal of early criticism but besides all that, he is an immediate success. After finally gaining support of the coaches, teammates, and local fans, he begins to grow older and more experienced yet still continuing to pile on the pressure to do well. In fact, they demand perfection. The media is after him wanting to know all about his history, as Roy does not want the public to know about his personal stories. As a leader of the team, he brings them up from last place to being in the World Series. Roy has a passion for the game that no one could ever change, as I respect that in an athlete. Throughout his injuries and slumps, he would still put on his glove and go out and play, which is very practical as that is the life of professional athletes. Memo, one of Roy¿s friends, make a comment to him that could be used as the theme of the book, which is, ¿Experience makes good people better¿. Especially through their suffering.¿ I believe The Natural is an entertaining book for audiences of different generations as it interweaves a love story with an intense sports tale. As stated earlier, Roy Hobbs is a fighter who wants to keep his past a mystery. Readers from all backgrounds can relate to the struggles of the everyday perfection others expect out of you, and as we can see, what doesn¿t kill you, makes you stronger.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the definitive work in this genre. The baseball color is unmatched and the rigor and depth of the characters and conflict is wonderful. You will be captivated by Roy Hobbs and his baseball prowess, and cringe at his flaws that make his quest for baseball immortality impossible. Just fabulous.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had this book for a summer reading assignment this year, and at first I didn't like it all that much and thought it was a hard read, but then I really got into it, which is wierd because I don't really like baseball all that much. The storyline is good and sad in most parts. I think that the main character, Roy Hobbs, is a little self centered because he thinks he is the best and fools around with women. But in the end, you have to feel sorry for the guy. So this story is really good and it was written extremely well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best baseball there is.This bookjust pulls you into it and does not want to let you go. I this book Roy goes through many challenges but in the endhe comes out on top. THis bookis great for any kid who loves base ball and or fo ay adult who loves the game of baseball.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the novel, The Natural by Bernard Malamud, you are taken back to the 1930¿s and 40¿s era and learn of a man named Roy Hobbs who is on a train to Chicago. Later in the story, the setting changes to New York where the Knights, a major league baseball team plays. This setting gives you a sense of 1940¿s baseball and is described to create a very realistic picture of that time and baseball during that period. The plot of The Natural starts with the young new pitcher Roy Hobbs, is on his way to Chicago to try out for the Cubs. On the train he meets the baseball legend, The Wammer, who Roy strikes out in three pitches at a carnival when the train had stopped. He also meets a very pretty woman named Harriet Bird, when in Chicago, invites Roy to her hotel room. When he arrives she shoots him. The story moves to 16 years later, Roy is now 34 years old and has a contract to play for the New York Knights. Manager Pop Fischer doesn¿t like the idea of having an old rookie and doesn¿t play Roy. But, after the Knights start outfielder Bump Bailey dies after crashing into the wall, Roy takes his spot. Using his bat he made from a tree struck by lightning called Wonderboy, Roy becomes the new fan favorite. He then falls in love with Memo Paris, Pop¿s niece who brings Roy bad luck and sends him into a horrible slump. But when in Chicago, he meets Iris Lemon who makes Roy begin to hit again. Once the team has the chance to play for the pennant against the Pirates, the Judge, who owns the Knights offers Roy a $35,000 dollar bonus to lose on purpose so he can take the team away from Pop Fischer. Roy strikes out to end the game and his deal with the Judge is later exposed to the public. The plot is a very fairy tale story in that Roy is able to come back at age 34 and dominate the game, and the type of deal he made with the Judge seems to be a very unlikely event to occur. Roy¿s main conflict during the book was his dilemma to accept the $35,000 or just live with his inadequate salary of $3,000. Roy wants the cash, but doesn¿t want to upset Pop Fisher. He is pressured by Memo to give into the Judge¿s plan. Roy did learn that he can become corrupt by money, because during his incredible season, he only wanted to play for the love of the game, but in the end took the money to lose the pennant. Some concepts that were present were to have courage as Roy displayed to come back after leaving baseball for 16 years. Others include heroism in capturing the attention of the fans, but also of betrayal when he took part in the Judge¿s plan. The concepts of courage and chasing your dreams are important to me because I have my own ideas for the future and I can¿t take shortcuts like Roy tried. I enjoyed The Natural, I learned it¿s never too late to chase dreams and do what you set out to do. Also, because I love baseball and enjoy reading sport novels. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes heroic stories followed with some tragedy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book, The Natural, is an excellent book because of the valuable lessons that the reader learns from reading the book. Bernard Malamud creates very realistic characters in a realistic plot to teach the reader that you need to step up to the plate in order to be successful in life. In the beginning of the story, Roy uses his inexperience to strike out the Whammer, who at the time was one of the greatest baseball players in the world. Unfortunately, Roy is shot by a woman, keeping him out of baseball for fifteen years. When he returns to baseball at the age of 34, he joins the struggling New York Knights and leads them to win the pennant. The conflict in the story that makes it a good read is that Roy is very susceptible to women and this causes him to go into a slump. At the end of the book, Roy is now faced with a phenomenal rookie, who symbolizes Roy when he was young. Roy is unable to step up to the plate, and the rookie pitcher ends up striking out Roy, showing that Roy had given up on baseball and on life. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it because it is not just about baseball, but it is about valuable lessons in life that Roy learns in order to be successful in the real world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a baseball lover I loved it i thought it was a very well-written book. It kept me interested right through to the end of the book. It was a very inspirational novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book as a 9th grader and it was the best. The begining was slow, but in the end you felt better that finished a great book not just about the boring sport of baseball.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read The Natural this summer to prep for an A.P. Lit. class. The way the book jumps around really confused me. It also left me asking myself ENDLESS amounts of questions that should have been evident in the book. I have to admit that there were definitely some interesting parts, but if I weren't required to read this book, I don't think I would. It's just not my kind of book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Natural was an exceptional book it great details and I love sports so it really interested me about how things use to work back in the 40's when baseball was life, I would recommend this book to people who like sports otherwise I dont think they would like it.
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slayda More than 1 year ago
Usually I have found the book version to be soperior to the movie version, often vastly so. I was disappointed with this book and cannot recommend it, especially if you liked the movie. I loved the movie. It's among my favorite movies.
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braves7 More than 1 year ago
The Natural by Bernard Malamud tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a man who is about 19 and trying to make it to the Majors. While on a train on his way to Chicago, he runs into a sports writer and a real ball player. He is challenged to a duel against the leagues leading hitter. Later on his way to Chicago, he runs into trouble and is sidelined for years. When he finally makes his return, Roy is in his 30's and signs with the team that is at the bottom of their division. When he goes out and practices, everyone notices how much of a natural he is, especially since he only learned how to play from his dad. After the death of the star player on the Knights, Roy has to fill in his big shoes. He helps raise the morale of the team and brings them within contention for the league lead. Near the end of the season, Roy is forced to make the toughest decision of his life; take a large sum of money and throw the game, or to take his small salary and not throw the game. The ending is one that you can kind of see coming with an unexpected twist, but it also leaves you hanging. It is a great book for sports fans because it portrays the struggle of someone trying to make it to the Majors while getting into their personal life and making you want to read more and more. In the novel, there is also a lot of foreshadowing that helps careful readers pick up on things that are going to happen and affect Roy. There are also many surprises that pop up along the way. It is a great story about following your dreams and never giving up on them no matter how old you are, because they can always come true if you keep working at them, much like they did for Roy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just a great underdog story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the imagery Malamud used during the baseball sequences. A good exciting fast paced read. I recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked The Natural because I had saw the movie and enjoyed it very much,but I thought the book would go more in depth about the movie. It was like reading a totally different story, and was nothing at all like the movie.