Wednesday, August 26, 2015

North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent (from 1973)

If you like, you can surf the net a bit and learn more about Gent's days as a player for the Dallas Cowboys.  It is kind of neat to know who the various characters in his novel North Dallas Forty are based on and Gent himself is certainly unique.  Yet that's not where I'm going to direct the focus of this review, for I think it sells the novel itself a bit short.  You see, the real fun doesn't stem from the knowledge that the profane and crafty quarterback of the novel, Seth Maxwell, is based on good old boy Don Meredith.  No, the real fun is enjoying Gent's somewhat autobiographical take on the game that so many of us treasure.  Unfolding during a single week in the life of a player who is reluctant to sell his soul to the league even if he has already given them his health, North Dallas Forty is a comedy blessed with many laughs and a drama sporting a likable lead who is tested beyond his limits.  It is incredibly vulgar and equally insightful, and it is a riveting page-turner of the highest order.  To be frank, North Dallas Forty is one of my favorite books, and while Gent may not have proven capable of delivering a truly worthy follow-up, he absolutely nailed it with this irreverent masterpiece.  In addition to being absurdly funny and wildly compelling, the novel allows the author to ponder friendship, competition, conformity, sex, love, and purpose, among other things.  It's heavy on the drugs, ripe with profanity, downright pornographic at times, and shockingly effective.  In spite of all the crazy things that happen during the book, it never loses focus and the characters and their various relationships (to include coach/player, quarterback/receiver, employer/employee, and most importantly, man/woman) are always at the forefront.  Gent never loses his momentum and the book doesn't bog down at any point despite being overburdened with stupendous accounts of debauchery and a near total lack of characters who aren't disconnected from the consequences of their actions or recklessly adrift in a tumultuous sea of fear and violence.  While it shines an unwelcome light on many practices that were once prevalent in the game (and many that are still presenting problems for the professional athletes who sacrifice themselves to the league in exchange for fame and fortune), North Dallas Forty is a book that fans of the sport should enjoy as much as those who are simply looking for something moving and unruly to read. 

Final Grade: A+
Football player turned author Peter Gent looks like a proud papa as he poses with copies
of North Dallas Forty, one of the best books I have ever been fortunate enough to enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment