"Every now and then, a book comes along that changes our understanding of what we once considered known and true. The Redshirt does that for football, the literary sports novel, and modern American masculinity, all at once. Corey Sobel, a former football player, has written a violent and tender elegy to the sport and life that shaped him. He's a keen, creative force, and The Redshirt promises to be one of 2020's finest debuts." Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City and Youngblood
" The Redshirt is a timely and anthropologically rich examination of masculinity, sexuality, and football. First and foremost, though, it's a skillfully narrated and completely engrossing novel. This is a terrific debut from Corey Sobel." Chris Bachelder, author of National Book Award Finalist, The Throwback Special and Abbot Awaits.
"I have never read anything that provides such sensitive and attentive insights into the peculiar yet burdensome pressures on young men to fulfill societal, familial, communal, and cultural expectations of masculinity. The scenes of games and plays are intense." Lisa Williams, series editor for the New Poetry and Prose Series, Creative Writing Program Director at Centre College, and author of three books of poems, most recently Gazelle in the House.
"Corey Sobel goes so deep into his characters, particularly Miles, that you can not only under- stand their observations and anxieties, but you can FEEL them. You can become them. Not many books can pull that off, but The Redshirt does it, yard by yard." Drew Magary, author of Point B and The Hike
"A brave and gorgeous debut, The Redshirt is a gut-wrenching literary exploration of the violence and social pressures enforcing masculine identity. Sobel has created a poetic page- turner, a complex yet incisive story about the pain of repressed desire that of the body and of the mind and the ways literature can offer a means of resistance and a new identity." Deni Ellis Béchard, Commonwealth Writers' Prizewinning author of A Song from Faraway
"It's all too easy to watch a college football game without considering the humans underneath the helmets. Corey Sobel pierces that blissful ignorance, turning gridiron stars into three- dimensional characters whose obsessions and anxieties become the reader's own." Megan Greenwell, editor of WIRED.com, senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, and former editor in chief of Deadspin
"I absolutely love The Redshirt. This is a surefooted, wise, sardonic, and brutally honest novel about race, football, and the American university it reminds me of Ben Fountain, Colson Whitehead yes, even DFW would look down with approval." Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine and White Flights
"Corey Sobel's magnificent debut novel… exposes the hypermasculinity of collegiate football as a freshman starts at a Division One school….. Literary and beautiful lines transport readers to the boys' Southern college, where the football team is no good and no one cares. The Redshirt is a gorgeous novel in which two young men learn who they truly are, with and without the drama of college football." Ashley Holstrom, Foreword Reviews
"Sobel debuts with an incisive, sweeping portrait of a secretly gay college football player. The author captures Reshawn's frustration and Miles's conflicted desires in sharp prose. Sobel's fervent, literary treatment of sexuality and masculinity perfectly captures the messy world of college sports." Publishers Weekly
"Corey Sobel's The Redshirt is an impressive and beguiling first novel. A rare and honest look at life and sports at an elite college, the book is also a powerful, nuanced, and surprising examination of how tangled personal relationships become when they clash with institutional imperatives. " Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others and National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist Am I Alone Here?
"The Redshirt is not just a novel of great beauty. It is also a reckoning and an incantation. It's not possible to close such a novel and leave unchanged." Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn't Require You and the PEN/Bingham Prize-winning Insurrections
"Sobel, who attended Duke on a football scholarship, writes engrossingly about football's punishing physical and psychological rituals.…the core crises that Miles and Reshawn face feel authentic, and Sobel smoothly persuades the reader to witness their many bruises.…A promising debut." Kirkus Reviews
" T he Redshirt is an absorbing portrait of the culture of college athletics as expressed at an institution determined to move from loser to winner at football." The New York Journal of Books
"Like the best sports-focused books that expand to and endure in broader cultural circles, The Redshirt is about so much more than the game it's built around, college football. It's about identity and race and class and sex and systems and how our old ideals of masculinity have fared in the new century. It's both a brutal reckoning and a tender elegy." Esquire
"Beyond illuminating the allure of college football, The Redshirt is a powerful exploration of the emotional relationships between men, and the ways that race, class and sexuality shape those dynamics." The Sentinel
A college football team serves as a macho proving ground and a deep repository of secrets.
King College in North Carolina is one of the country’s premier academic institutions, but it’s hapless in Division 1 football. So attracting talented players requires some compromises. Miles, the rueful narrator of Sobel’s debut, remembers King as one of the few places willing to take on an underweight linebacker (he’s 17, having skipped a grade in elementary school). It’s also where he believes he can explore being gay far from his conservative Colorado hometown, until he enters the team’s homophobic bubble. Reshawn, Miles’ roommate, is more of a puzzle: a star running back with his pick of programs who inexplicably opted for an NCAA doormat. In the year or so the novel covers, both men weather the emotional toll of needing to belong. Miles absorbs teams hazings and stomachs casually slung anti-gay slurs while laboring to maintain a budding romance with a classmate who refuses to be closeted. Reshawn, an academic wunderkind as well as an A-list athlete, suppresses his intellectual side while concealing his reasons for choosing King. Sobel, who attended Duke on a football scholarship, writes engrossingly about football's punishing physical and psychological rituals. And though his characterizations are solid, too, the book's style and tensions are so straightforward that it reads more like a YA novel. A subplot involving Reshawn’s research on a well-educated freed slave feels forced and underdeveloped, as do Sobel’s late efforts to work in riffs on Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener.” (The latter trope reinforces the sense that the book is a gridiron reprise of The Art of Fielding.) Still, the core crises that Miles and Reshawn face feel authentic, and Sobel smoothly persuades the reader to witness their many bruises.
A promising debut, albeit with some familiar conflicts.