Shortlisted for 2020 Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize
Corey Sobel challenges tenacious stereotypes in this compelling debut novel, shedding new light on the hypermasculine world of American football. The Redshirt introduces Miles Furling, a young man who is convinced he was placed on earth to play football. Deep in the closet, he sees the sport as a means of gaining a permanent foothold in a culture that would otherwise reject him. Still, Miles's body lags behind his ambitions, and recruiters tell him he is not big enough to compete at the top level. His dreams come true when a letter arrives from King College.
The elite southern school boasts one of the best educations in America and one of the worst Division One football programs. King football is filled with obscure, ignored players like Miles -- which is why he and the sports world in general are shocked when the country's top recruit, Reshawn McCoy, also chooses to attend the college. As brilliant a student as he is a player, the intensely private Reshawn refuses to explain why he chose King over other programs.
Miles is as baffled as everyone else, and less than thrilled when he winds up rooming with the taciturn Reshawn. Initially at odds with each other, the pair become confidants as the win-at-all-costs program makes brutal demands on their time and bodies. When their true selves and the identities that have been imposed on them by the game collide, both young men are forced to make life-changing choices.
"Every now and then, a book comes along that changes our understanding of what we once considered known and true. The Redshirt does that for football, the literary sports novel, and modern American masculinity, all at once. Corey Sobel, a former football player, has written a violent and tender elegy to the sport and life that shaped him. He's a keen, creative force, and The Redshirt promises to be one of 2020's finest debuts." -- Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City and Youngblood
" The Redshirt is a timely and anthropologically rich examination of masculinity, sexuality, and football. First and foremost, though, it's a skillfully narrated and completely engrossing novel. This is a terrific debut from Corey Sobel." -- Chris Bachelder, author of National Book Award Finalist, The Throwback Special and Abbot Awaits.
"I have never read anything that provides such sensitive and attentive insights into the peculiar yet burdensome pressures on young men to fulfill societal, familial, communal, and cultural expectations of masculinity. The scenes of games and plays are intense." -- Lisa Williams, series editor for the New Poetry and Prose Series, Creative Writing Program Director at Centre College, and author of three books of poems, most recently Gazelle in the House.
"Corey Sobel goes so deep into his characters, particularly Miles, that you can not only under- stand their observations and anxieties, but you can FEEL them. You can become them. Not many books can pull that off, but The Redshirt does it, yard by yard." -- Drew Magary, author of Point B and The Hike
"A brave and gorgeous debut, The Redshirt is a gut-wrenching literary exploration of the violence and social pressures enforcing masculine identity. Sobel has created a poetic page- turner, a complex yet incisive story about the pain of repressed desire -- that of the body and of the mind -- and the ways literature can offer a means of resistance and a new identity." -- Deni Ellis Béchard, Commonwealth Writers' Prize--winning author of A Song from Faraway
"It's all too easy to watch a college football game without considering the humans underneath the helmets. Corey Sobel pierces that blissful ignorance, turning gridiron stars into three- dimensional characters whose obsessions and anxieties become the reader's own." -- Megan Greenwell, editor of WIRED.com, senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, and former editor in chief of Deadspin
"I absolutely love The Redshirt. This is a surefooted, wise, sardonic, and brutally honest novel about race, football, and the American university -- it reminds me of Ben Fountain, Colson Whitehead -- yes, even DFW would look down with approval." -- Jess Row, author of Your Face in Mine and White Flights
"Corey Sobel's magnificent debut novel exposes the hypermasculinity of collegiate football as a freshman starts at a Division One school .. Literary and beautiful lines transport readers to the boys' Southern college, where the football team is no good and no one cares. The Redshirt is a gorgeous novel in which two young men learn who they truly are, with and without the drama of college football." -- Ashley Holstrom, Foreword Reviews
"Sobel debuts with an incisive, sweeping portrait of a secretly gay college football player. The author captures Reshawn's frustration and Miles's conflicted desires in sharp prose. Sobel's fervent, literary treatment of sexuality and masculinity perfectly captures the messy world of college sports." -- Publishers Weekly
"Corey Sobel's The Redshirt is an impressive and beguiling first novel. A rare and honest look at life and sports at an elite college, the book is also a powerful, nuanced, and surprising examination of how tangled personal relationships become when they clash with institutional imperatives. " -- Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others and National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist Am I Alone Here?
"The Redshirt is not just a novel of great beauty. It is also a reckoning and an incantation. It's not possible to close such a novel and leave unchanged." -- Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn't Require You and the PEN/Bingham Prize-winning Insurrections
"Sobel, who attended Duke on a football scholarship, writes engrossingly about football's punishing physical and psychological rituals. the core crises that Miles and Reshawn face feel authentic, and Sobel smoothly persuades the reader to witness their many bruises. A promising debut." -- Kirkus Reviews
" T he Redshirt is an absorbing portrait of the culture of college athletics as expressed at an institution determined to move from loser to winner at football." -- The New York Journal of Books
"Like the best sports-focused books that expand to and endure in broader cultural circles, The Redshirt is about so much more than the game it's built around, college football. It's about identity and race and class and sex and systems and how our old ideals of masculinity have fared in the new century. It's both a brutal reckoning and a tender elegy." -- Esquire
"Beyond illuminating the allure of college football, The Redshirt is a powerful exploration of the emotional relationships between men, and the ways that race, class and sexuality shape those dynamics." -- The Aurora Sentinel
"A very strong debut novel that draws jagged, vivid links between sport and society." -- Star Tribune
"T he Redshirt is an understated yet seething novel about what it means to be a man and is one of the best football novels to come along in recent years." -- Michael Schaub, NPR
" The Redshirt may be the only novel about football I'll ever read, but what a novel about football it is. I highly recommend this heartfelt, unusual, book to every American who has ever watched a football game, attended a college sports event, studied for a test, loved another person... In other words, Sobel's debut works for us all." -- Bethanne Patrick, Literary Hub