Butt Ugly is a story of “love and baseball.” It is the heart warming tale of the cantankerous Cole Catalpa Junior, born with a deformity to the face that is so hideous people stare and comment all the time. He proves his bullies wrong when he starts pitching his anger out on his father’s barn door with a baseball and this talent for throwing is encouraged by Cole Senior despite Junior’s indifference,” “I’ve got no taste for that game” I told him. ” Regard it as an assignment,” he insisted.” This eventually shoots Junior into the national leagues of pro baseball: the unfortunate chant from school of “butt ugly” becomes his moniker, and the fans turn it into a rallying cry as Cole basically gets his revenge by making it big despite his terrible face. He is however, something of a hit with the ladies, the irony not even lost on him: one of his conquests is curious to see what he has in his pants and he tells us, “If mine was not a monster’s tool, I pounded her like a lout”. Expect this colorful description throughout!
I read half the book believing Cole Catalpa Jr was a real life baseball coach, until it occurred to me it was written by Jimmy Glenn! Much can be said for this reader’s error – the writing is solid, funny, sharp and character rich that to the writer’s credit it is a truly convincing fictional autobiography.
Despite the technical baseball talk which I am sure millions will understand better than I can, I did relish in the spiteful descriptions of the players as they argue themselves around the pitch: one of his nemeses, the obese Goody Wildwood quipping, “I can change obese. You’ll be Butt Ugly forever.” This malevolent sort ends up with a pitched ball to the throat.
There is a lot of knowledge here that only a true sports fan with a head for business could convey, adding to the tapestry of realism, but there is something here for everyone with or without that sports know how.When it got a bit too technical I skim read and it didn’t impede the story one bit. I can only see the baseball detail enhancing the read for those with the knowledge.
The second act of the book is for me the real heartbeat. Cole rolls into the beautiful farm setting of his family’s house to retire, a tumbleweed town by the name of 87, having not much enjoyed his career, but phenomenally rich. He is basically strong armed into marrying the daughter of a previous fling, Bobbie, who proves to be something of a nymphomaniac and the biggest hearted girl he could wish to meet. Loving his face, she becomes his rock and keeps him in the real world when a stalker gets into the grounds, and turns out to be Cole’s biggest challenge: Pontchartrain Osmick, a gangly lad who forces himself into the farm in exchange for training to be a pitcher as good as Cole. But first, these two chalk and cheese strangers must learn to muddle along in a comedy of errors, all the while cajoled by the faithful Bobbie.
This book is a most imaginative concept and is written in a South Carolina patois which after a while really infuses the read with some wonderful vocabulary and illustrative phrases. The humor is sour and fine at the same time, and despite the ridiculous opulence of Cole’s stardom and dramatics of his life, the character of Cole still finds everything immensely normal and lightly annoying, adding to the comedy of the story.
I can really see a Hollywood blockbuster coming out of this literature: it’s ripe for screenplay: triumph over the odds with baseball, but with a love story in there too. It’s Gerry McGuire meets Field of Dreams.
This book makes me want to know baseball as Jimmy Glenn obviously does, and it is clear to me that his immense aficion for the sport served a great purpose when writing the life and times of Butt Ugly. I just wonder why Jimmy Glenn has gone unpublished with such a fresh and unique approach to fiction and such an obvious talent for wordsmithery. A really entertaining read.
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About Cate Baum
Cate Baum is a filmmaker and writer of self-published book “The Bull and The Ban” (under the name Tosko) and contributed to "Ole!", a book about 21st Century attitudes to bullfighting with Ernest Hemingway's grandson John and New York Times writer Edward Lewine. She is also editor and co-founder of Filmmaking Review, the sister site to Self-Publishing Review. She is married to SPR founder Henry Baum and lives in LA.