Steve Rushin

Steve Rushin
The Pint Man 

Readers of Sports Illustrated—those who venture beyond the swimsuit issue—will recognize Steve Rushin’s name; he was a staff writer at the magazine for 19 years. The Pint Man is his first novel, and if you love language, or drinking, or sports, this book’s for you.

Word-obsessed Rodney, an unemployed copywriter, takes up with Mairead, who started school every year carrying a note to explain that her name rhymed with “parade.” Much of the story’s entertainment comes from following the detours of Rodney’s mind; on his first date with Mairead he wonders aloud whether the pilgrims unbuckled their hats, rather than their belts, after a big meal.

Choose a page at random and you’re likely to come across an obscure piece of drinking lore or scraps of wordplay that lodged in Rodney’s memory—Spoonerisms like “The Lord is a shoving leopard,” for example. Rushin also delivers a deadly accurate guy’s-eye view of everyday situations, from the dynamics in men’s rooms to how males try to pretend they aren’t staring at an attractive woman on the street.

The dialogue sounds as though Rushin took notes while sitting on a barstool; in fact, maybe he did. Here’s the scene when Family Feud, playing on a TV at the local watering hole, asks contestants to name a famous Rudolph. Rodney kicks it off: “Red-Nosed Reindeer, Giuliani, Nureyev, Valentino . . .”

“Wilma Rudolph,” says the bartender.

“Wilma Flintstone,” suggests another regular.

“It’s famous Rudolphs,” the barman tells him. “Not famous Wilmas.”

Rushin’s humor is perfectly pitched throughout, cheerfully masculine without descending into raunch. Buy that man another round.

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