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The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Chad Harbach

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Title:The Art of Fielding: A Novel
Authors:Chad Harbach
Info:Little, Brown and Company (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Classics & Literature, Your library

Work details

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011)

2011 (14) 2012 (46) 2013 (15) 21st century (14) America (12) American (17) American literature (21) ARC (13) audiobook (13) baseball (216) book club (16) college (81) coming of age (48) contemporary fiction (20) ebook (18) fiction (315) friendship (27) homosexuality (17) Kindle (18) literary fiction (16) literature (17) Midwest (23) novel (49) read (22) read in 2012 (25) relationships (22) sports (52) to-read (100) USA (17) Wisconsin (44)
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English (160)  Dutch (4)  Italian (1)  All languages (165)
Showing 1-5 of 160 (next | show all)
Henry Skrimshander, 17 and skinny is in his last year of high school when he is spotted playing baseball in a summer competition by Mike Schwartz, captain of the Westish College team, the Harpooners. Henry is a specialist shortstop and Mike recognises that this skinny kid has an extraordinary athleticism and talent that could be developed into something special. Henry’s bible is a book called “The Art of Fielding” by his boyhood hero, the famous shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez, that Henry has more or less memorized. On discovering that Henry has no plans for life after high school, Mike twists the arm of the college president, Guert Affenlight, to offer him a place at Westish. And so begins an extraordinary journey for Henry as Mike works with him to build up his strength and fitness and he starts to draw the attention of the talent scouts. However, Henry is not ready for so much fame so soon and his mind starts to cast doubt on his abilities and interfere with his game.

Henry is not the only one experiencing a tumultuous year while learning to cope in an adult world. Mike Schwartz is worrying about his future – his knees are shot so he has no future as a player despite his skill, he doesn’t want to end up as a baseball coach and is pinning all his hopes on getting into a top law school. President Affenlight’s daughter has run away from her hasty early marriage and is recovering from depression while living with her father in his batchelor pad and contemplating her future. Henry’s roommate and fellow baseball player, Owen is gay and embarking on an unwise relationship with an older man. By the end of the book all the characters will have made important decisions that have changed them and will impact on their future lives.

I very much enjoyed this coming of age novel. As an Australian I don’t know much of the intricacies of baseball (I did have to look up a couple of terms), but fortunately there wasn’t a lot of description of actual games and the problems and issues experienced by the team would translate to pretty much any sport anywhere in the world. ( )
  cscott | Mar 22, 2014 |
Somewhat spoiler alert:
I started this book for the baseball aspect, but I continued to read it to try to experience the bitterness that Shwartz felt about Henry's success and his failure at it. I continued to read it for the growing relationship between Owen and Affenlight and to see how Affenlight grew into his feelings. I continued to read it for Pella and watching her grow from a woman on the run to a college student getting her life back.

Book was slow at times but was a very good read. Recommended for everyone, baseball fans or not. ( )
  beearedee | Mar 18, 2014 |
Although this book was not what I expected, I did like it and was interested to know how it would end. The characters were interesting, well developed and mostly believable. ( )
  bibliophileofalls | Feb 9, 2014 |
From early childhood, baseball phenom Henry Skrimshander has devoted himself to perfecting his play at shortstop. For him, fielding is like a beautiful dance as he positions himself for the perfect throw or turning the double play. Graceful and error-free on the field, off it he is shy and unremarkable. He has resigned himself to a factory job once he graduates from high school. All of this changes once Mike Schwartz entices him to play for Westish College, a small liberal arts school on the shores of Lake Michigan. Following Henry, Mike, the team, gay roommate Owen Dunne, President Affenlight and his troubled daughter Pella through the next several years, we see how definitive moments, actions and decisions can have longlasting effect, both on and off the baseball diamond. Careful readers will note a tip of the cap to Herman Melville and John Irving.

In the deep freeze of the 2014 polar vortex, one hunkers for a baseball novel, full of the grit and sunshine of a well mown playing field and of all the drama that the game engenders (at least for this reader). The Art of Fielding would appear to be such a book. Respected novelists (Jonathan Frantzen, Tea Obreht, John Irving, James Patterson) provided blurbs. It was highly regarded in various publications. (NYT Best Books of the Year 2011, Christian Science Monitor Best Book fiction 2011, etc). Perhaps this hype led to such heightened expectations for which few books could hope to meet. Alas, while the book was a pleasant enough read, particularly in the baseball coming-of-age genre, it was hardly transcendent. I found few of the characters engaging, with the exception of the main protagonist, Henry Skrimshander. Even with Henry, the denouement came about 100 pages too late for me to care. I can understand why others might find it enjoyable, but it wasn't the lovely diamond escape I'd hoped it would be. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jan 26, 2014 |
What a complex and lovely first novel. This is an intricate book with characters deep and simple, each of whom makes choices and takes actions which profoundly change the course of the lives of every other character. These are people I know and their choices make sense yet are not predictible. All that and the writing is so very elegant, very literary but not at all pretentious. My one complaint is the time spent on unnecessary and one-dimensional characters who should have been edited out (Henry's whole family, the coach, the people selling the house and their dog, the dining hall chef.) Highly recommended ( )
  Narshkite | Nov 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 160 (next | show all)
The book is a throwback to a bygone, if not universally mourned era when charismatic white male novelists wrote intelligent bestsellers, and one senses that it is intentionally so....It is a work of stridently unexperimental psychological realism, featuring likeable characters with cute nicknames, dramatic events that change people’s lives, easily identified and fully consummated narrative arcs, transparently conversational prose and big, obvious metaphors.

Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding cross-breeds two genres with limited gene pools, the baseball novel and the campus novel, and comes up with a vigorous hybrid, entertaining and engrossing, though almost absurdly high-minded.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Adam Mars-Jones (Jan 28, 2012)
It's easy to see why The Art of Fielding has done so well: it is charming, warm-hearted, addictive, and very hard to dislike....

The Art of Fielding feels like a novel from another, more innocent age. It revels in themes that have been unfashionable in literary fiction for generations – team spirit, male friendship, making the best of one's talents. In its optimism and lack of cynicism, in its celebration of the wide open spaces of the Midwest and its confidence in the deep inner meaning of baseball, it is a big American novel of the old school....

...it creates a richly peopled world that you can fully inhabit in your mind, and to which you long to return when you put it down.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Theo Tait (Jan 12, 2012)
Centering on an imaginary northern Wisconsin private school and its baseball star-in-the-making Henry Skrimshander, Harbach sidesteps much of the familiar mythmaking that can go along with spinning the American pastime into literature and instead delivers a rich, warmly human story that resonates even if you have no idea what a 6-4-3 double play looks like.
added by zhejw | editLos Angeles Times, Chris Barton (Oct 16, 2011)
Chad Harbach makes the case for baseball, thrillingly, in his slow, precious and altogether excellent first novel, “The Art of Fielding.”
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Gregory Cowles (Sep 9, 2011)
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So be cheery, my lads
Let your hearts never fall
While the bold Harpooner
Is striking the ball.

--Westish College fight song
For my family
First words
Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game.
Literature could turn you into an asshole; he'd learned that teaching grad-school seminars.  It could teach you to treat real people the way you did characters, as instruments of your own intellectual pleasure, cadavers on which to practice your critical faculties.
Talking was like throwing a baseball.  You couldn't plan it out beforehand.  You just had to let go and see what happened.  You had to throw out words without knowing whether anyone would catch them--you and to throw out words you knew no one would catch. You had to send your words out where they weren't yours anymore.  It felt better to talk with a ball in your hand, it felt better to let the ball do the talking.  But the world, the nonbaseball world, the world of love and sex and jobs and friends, was made of words.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316126691, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: Though The Art of Fielding is his fiction debut, Chad Harbach writes with the self-assurance of a seasoned novelist. He exercises a masterful precision over the language and pacing of his narrative, and in some 500 pages, there's rarely a word that feels out of place. The title is a reference to baseball, but Harbach's concern with sports is more than just a cheap metaphor. The Art of Fielding explores relationships--between friends, family, and lovers--and the unpredictable forces that complicate them. There's an unintended affair, a post-graduate plan derailed by rejection letters, a marriage dissolved by honesty, and at the center of the book, the single baseball error that sets all of these events into motion. The Art of Fielding is somehow both confident and intimate, simple yet deeply moving. Harbach has penned one of the year's finest works of fiction.--Kevin Nguyen

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big-league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended."--from publisher's description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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