Benjamin Markovits - Playing Days (3 stars)

Benjamin Markovits - Playing Days


Though not explicitly billed as a memoir, Benjamin Markovits’ new novel appears to be largely autobiographical. A college graduate with literary ambitions, its narrator takes up a spot on a second division German basketball team, in a move inspired by post-graduation indecision and childhood nostalgia. Things become complicated, however, when he starts dating the estranged wife of a fellow American team-mate. That the club is made up of a motley crew of unhappy, uncertain figures, including a future NBA star, makes up much of the book’s prose, which seems occasionally – as if in reflection of its characters’ aimlessness – drifting and unfocused.

Yet, while lengthy descriptions of basketball action may not appeal to non sports fans, Markovits’ lucid ability to capture both the emotionally turbulent and mundane aspects of close personal relationships, most touchingly between himself and his father, ultimately makes Playing Days an elegant and satisfying novel.

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