rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is one of those books you read for the artistry of its construction: they vivid yet impersonal style of the language, the POV shifts, the abstract-concreteness of it. This is the kind of book that I imagine my sophomore year Creative Writing Seminar Professor choosing, to go along with all of those stories that were so thought-provoking and had such poignant language, but that I didn’t quite “get.” Yet what makes Boice’s novel unusual is its here-and-now, popular culture subject: the life of a (fictional) professional basketball player.
This subject has probably been done a number of times by a number of authors. I would wager that it has been glorified to the extreme on one end, and written to evoke sympathy bordering on tears on the other. Yet MVP does neither of those, or else it does both: it shows the ostentatiousness of a professional athlete’s lifestyle and expectations from life, as well as the simplicity of a child’s dreams and how difficult it is to live those dreams out. You hate the protagonist even while you are pitying him. In any work of modern art, I find that ambivalence is the key to artistry, and so this is a work of “modern” fiction.
I wish I could find an English teacher or school board willing to try teaching this book to kids in inner-city high schools. Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby are great and certainly well written, but this would probably be my choice of material to teach because not only would there be good writing to model and interesting themes to pursue, but the kids might actually find something in this novel they can relate to. Even I, a suburban white girl, found something to relate to in Gilbert’s struggles for selfhood and self-ownership, and the fact that I can imagine many of my former jerk-off classmates actually becoming interested within the first chapter makes me keen to try my theory. However, my efforts would probably end in MVP landing on the banned book list and me landing out the door on my tush. Sex and drug use is not skirted in this novel, nor should it be for the subject it is addressing and the stare-in-the-face manner it uses to tackle that subject. I believe high school juniors and seniors would be up to the task of facing these references and descriptions, with which they are most likely already familiar. Sadly for me—and for most high schoolers out there—school administrations will never agree.
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