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Baseball phenom Dan Mason is drafted out of high school but elects to attend the University of Georgia where he falls in love with the beautiful Anna Jean Simpson. Amid chaos and heartache, Dan searches for the meaning of life, with his strongest crutch being the music of Bob Dylan. It is from Dylan's song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" that the title Life and Life Only originates.
Dan Mason grows up in suburban Chicago and is drafted in the eighth round out of high school by the Detroit Tigers. Instead of signing a professional contract, he heads south to the University of Georgia where he falls in love with the beautiful Anna Jean Simpson.
As the two try to forge a life together, fate seems to conspire against them at every turn. Amid cultural disintegration, economic misfortune and societal chaos, the two try to raise their daughter, while Anna Jean, in search of something she can't quite grasp, and Dan, who has lost nearly everything, must try to keep their marriage together.
Dan wrestles with organized religion, tries to repair a broken relationship with his mother, make sense of a sex-obsessed cultural, hold on to his one true love, and, when he does get a second chance at life, pay forward a favor granted him by a person he never even knew.
As the music of the traveling troubadour Bob Dylan keeps Dan company throughout his journey and gives him comfort, it also accentuates an America in tatters, and yet, at the end, all are left with the one great hope in the future--that the young and old may actually love, and that dreams are not an exercise in futility, but perhaps the life preserver that keeps us afloat.
Opening Ch. 1
Dan Mason entered the world in 1974, the same year that Bob Dylan reunited with The Band for the first time since their blistering tour of England in 1966. They opened up at the old Chicago Stadium on January 3rd. Tickets for the two-night stand sold out in less than a half-hour. A fortunate 24-year old, Don Mason, Dan's father, managed to score tickets. During this seminal tour, Bob regularly performed the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", and scowled the lines, "But even the president of the United States/Sometimes must have/To stand naked." Later that year, President Richard Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, announced he would resign rather than face impeachment.
From Ch. 19
People steal things from other people all the time. They steal their youth, their innocence, their hope, their money, and in severe cases, their futures. They do it consciously and subconsciously. When one loses something of value, one frequently perceives it as having been stolen, whether this is accurate or not. This transference is comforting. It allows the person to shift the blame to another, far or unfair. The distinction between loss and theft is so subtle that often neither theif nor victim can ascertain the difference. In this context, it makes perfect sense to believe in salvation through a higher being. No matter how well-meaning one party may be, what can forgiveness between mutual perpetrators actually be worth in this world? The forgiver, at some point, has inevitably stolen something from another, knowlingly or otherwise. The one undeniable constant is that which is gone, is gone, never to return--lost or stolen, it does not matter. Value can be seen through the eyes of both thief and victim, but loss can only be processed through the senses of the victim, the one who has lost something of percieved value. Fault becomes irrelevant at that point. The victim must let it go or go crazy. Some think they've let it go, but being unaware they really haven't, spend the majority of their time trying to keep from losing their mind.