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Winner of The Paris Review/Terry Southern Prize for Humor.
"Chris Bachelder is a witty, compassionate troublemaker, and we need more like him." —George Saunders
Here is the absorbing story of twenty-two men who gather every fall to painstakingly reenact what ESPN called “the most shocking play in NFL history” and the Washington Redskins dubbed the “Throwback Special”: the November 1985 play in which the Redskins’ Joe Theismann had his leg horribly broken by Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants live on Monday Night Football.
With wit and great empathy, Chris Bachelder introduces us to Charles, a psychologist whose expertise is in high demand; George, a garrulous public librarian; Fat Michael, envied and despised by the others for being exquisitely fit; Jeff, a recently divorced man who has become a theorist of marriage; and many more. Over the course of a weekend, the men reveal their secret hopes, fears, and passions as they choose roles, spend a long night of the soul preparing for the play, and finally enact their bizarre ritual for what may be the last time. Along the way, mishaps, misunderstandings, and grievances pile up, and the comforting traditions holding the group together threaten to give way.
The Throwback Special is a moving and comic tale filled with pitch-perfect observations about manhood, marriage, middle age, and the rituals we all enact as part of being alive.
“Wistful and elegantly written…The Throwback Special conjures the rewarding melancholy of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels.” — John Williams, New York Times Book Review
“Powerful, intelligent, and entertaining…Bachelder works a kind of poignant comedic magic, expertly locating and drawing out central truths about life.” — Drew Nellins Smith, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A hilariously sorrowful rendering of American masculinity.” — Weston Cutter, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A gem…Bachelder’s ‘football’ novel is an eerie, witty work dissecting a modern-day sacrificial ritual.” — Matt Seidel, The Millions
“[Bachelder] excels as an analyst of the anxieties that undergird social mores.” — Miranda Popkey, The New Yorker
“Bachelder’s quirky, defiant style…achieves something fresh and surprising.” — Chris Tucker, Dallas Morning News
“[The Throwback Special] is not about football. But about relationships and all that go with them: trust, mistrust, joy, sadness, elation, heartbreak and more.” — Vic Fleming, Memphis Daily News
“A hilarious literary novel about our least hilarious—and least literary—national pastime. No one who reads it will ever be able to think about football, Joe Theismann, Lawrence Taylor, or indeed the male psyche in quite the same way again.” — Tom Bissell, author of Apostle
“A comic meditation about marriage, ritual, friendship, parenthood, aging, and unlikely obsessions, The Throwback Special is a funny, insightful, and surprisingly poignant book.” — Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members
“What a brilliant book!” — Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang