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In this comprehensive and insightful study, Christian K. Messenger contends that American writers have always created characters at play in the sure knowledge that to be active in sport in America is to be in touch with its people, their traditions, and their fantasy lives.

This is the first inclusive critical study of sport in American fiction with chapters on individual authors such as Hawthorne, Lardner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner, as well as studies of sport in the literature of the frontier and in boys' formula fiction. A work of literary criticism, Sport and the Spirit of Play in American Fiction also draws on the cultural history of American sport and leisure and on a century of American literature.

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