Review #26: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

16 Apr

In Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, the depiction of a certain aspect of college, that nagging fear that you cannot possibly exist in a world outside the small fishbowl of your university, is beautifully rendered.  The characters in this book absolutely cannot exist without their alma mater. The fear of graduating, and losing their familiar world, is crippling. Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz and Guert Affenlight are like my worst fears come to life: they are what happens if you don’t force yourself to move on after university.

This is the story of Henry Skrimshander, whom Mike Schwartz discovers and recruits to play baseball at Westish College, and his friends and associates. The baseball is a powerful force throughout the book.  The book is a stream of descriptions of the rhythm of the game, the reliance on your teammates, and the excruciating struggle to push your body beyond it’s limits. The characters melt downs are reflected in their bodies; and the author has a scientific, but kind of poetic way, of describing the body.

There were certain characters  that were constantly referenced but not developed enough. Pella’s  (Mike Schwartz’s girlfriend)x-husband, for example, was a constant reference but felt thrown in as an after thought. Some of the team members, particularly one who hooks up with Henry’s sister, were basically caricatures of a college student. The chef that both Pella and Henry worked for seemed to be forced into a few scenes, with no apparent narrative purpose.

A few books I’ve read recently are starting to blend together, and feel a bit stale. The Marriage Plot, FreedomA Visit from the Goon Squad and The Art of Fielding are all brilliant novels, each in their own right. But each book follows  a similar recipe – beautiful prose + a cast of tragic characters + a smidge of romance + sharp observations/critiques of American culture + a deep exploration of each character’s motivations. They are dense; they make you think hard about what kind of person you should be striving to be; they are deeply moving while deeply depressing.

If you like those books, you will love The Art of Fielding.

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3 Responses to “Review #26: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #26: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach « Cannonball Read IV - April 16, 2012

    […] Read more… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by HelloKatieO in 3 stars – a good book and tagged Art of Fielding, baseball, book reviews, books, CBR4, chad harbach, hellokatieo, reviews […]

  2. 2. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach | lefaquinreads - June 16, 2013

    […] have no interest in baseball whatsoever, it’s still a great novel. I was just skimming through HelloKatieO’s review from last year, and I think she summed it up well – it’s similar to The Marriage Plot (which I […]

  3. lefaquin’s #CBR5 Review #2: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach | Cannonball Read V - June 16, 2013

    […] have no interest in baseball whatsoever, it’s still a great novel. I was just skimming through HelloKatieO’s review from last year, and I think she summed it up well – it’s similar to The Marriage Plot (which I […]

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