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

by Chad Harbach

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2,2731712,813 (3.98)162
Member:duwanis
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
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011)

2011 (14) 2012 (47) 2013 (15) 21st century (16) American (18) American literature (25) ARC (13) audiobook (14) baseball (221) book club (17) college (84) coming of age (52) contemporary fiction (22) ebook (18) fiction (326) friendship (28) homosexuality (19) Kindle (18) literary fiction (16) literature (19) Midwest (23) novel (51) read (22) read in 2012 (25) relationships (22) sport (12) sports (56) to-read (119) USA (17) Wisconsin (44)
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English (166)  Dutch (4)  Italian (1)  All languages (171)
Showing 1-5 of 166 (next | show all)
Great characters, fine writing, and fun to read, especially in summer! ( )
  sberson | Jul 23, 2014 |
Chad Harbach's debut novel begins strong, creating a world the reader easily becomes immersed in and introducing characters that one wants to get to know better. The writing is smooth and flowing, at once simple and sweeping, while he's not John Irving, it's easy to see why the novel has brought to mind Irving for many readers.

However, somewhere past the middle near the end the novel began to drag for me. I still cared about the characters but the events didn't really seem plausible. Or perhaps, the characters weren't complex or deep enough to absorb the events that occur. In any case, several developments felt unlikely and ultimately made the ending far less satisfying.

I don't believe in reviews that give spoilers, but suffice it to say that the catalyst for the protagonist's crisis is never really addressed in any real way that makes sense. Likewise, his roommate is immensely intriguing but never grows to be much more, despite his fairly pivotal role in the novel.

Still, it wasn't an entirely bad read and I'm not sorry I spent time reading it. But it felt like it could've been shorter and towards the end I just wanted to be done with it. If I do get Harbach's next novel I'll likely purchase the Kindle edition instead of splurging on the hardcover. ( )
  Shutzie27 | Jul 9, 2014 |
Every page of the writing in this campus baseball novel is absorbing, every character seems larger than life, and in some cases mythic figures that will live on off the page, and many of the psychological insights into their lives are uncannily observed. But all of this is embedded in a novel that is a little bit too long with a plot and some scenes that are a little bit too trite. But the good aspects more than made up for this and even picking up the book to read a few pages was exciting and enjoyable.

The book revolves around five characters: three baseball players at Westish college (a sort of Midwestern Amherst), the President of the college, and his daughter. Their lives collide and intersect in interesting ways after the star shortstop, Henry Skrimshander, makes an error. All of which happens with the contours of a relatively conventional baseball novel and campus novel, infused with homages to Melville (who in the book once visited Westish college on a lecture tour). ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
What I enjoyed about this story was that it was a story set in a world that, for me, was and is clearly visible. Thank you for writing a tale that is relatable to people that strive to interact and overcome not herculean tasks, but the task of realizing life's waning clock. Nice work and nice job. Also, cool shout out to Murakami. Yeah! ( )
  RhysBans | Jun 8, 2014 |
As the dark coolly draped over the heat-soaked desert foothills, I concentrated on the radio call for the San Francisco Giants series opener against the Rockies. The cool air outside the window where I sat and listened was no match for the crispness of the mile-high air in Coors Field. The stands sounded full, echoing just over the announcers banter, a tribute to the Rockies’ overachievement in the early weeks of the season. Maybe Tulowitzki is stealing signs, maybe not; maybe the team sneaks a non-humidor ball into the ump’s pouch at a critical time, maybe not. Even though I couldn’t see, I held my breath a little with each pitch, hoping Bumgarner, with his crane-like pivot, could sweep a 93 mph fastball over the corner of the plate. Or would the ball hang up just enough for the batter eye’s to widen with lust. As the final outs approached, the Giants were on top by a run thanks to a double that snaked into the left field corner, hit by a player that wore Rockies’ gray and purple last year. The Giants closed within one strike of victory. But the slight, wiry closer, the one with the beard sculpted to a gnome-like point, slotted a slider that a Rockies’ batter sent to the top of the wall in left field, scoring two. It’s only May. The Giants lead their division with one of the best records in baseball. It’s only one game. But listening to the excited voices of the announcers describing the path of the ball down the left field line turned my stomach. What is it about this game?

[The Art of Fielding], Chad Harbach’s debut novel, ponders the pull of the game, and how it mirrors life, transcending sport in so many ways. Not everyone sees that. Not everyone understands the game’s dichotomy: the routine interrupted by flashes of brilliant excitement and agony; the repeated failure broken by dizzying moments of success. Does that not describe life?

The book follows the life of Henry Skrimshander, a shortstop phenom, graceful and lithe on the field of play, but empty in all other ways except the pursuit of perfection. Playing college ball for a small, liberal arts college, ‘the Skrimmer’ develops an errorless streak that threatens to break records, only to see a rare errant throw destroy the face of a teammate. In that split second of failure, the minute slip of a finger, human fragility descends and consumes Henry. The doubt and confusion that follows, reflects the struggles of the people in Henry’s life: Schwartz, the captain of the team who suddenly loses his own single-minded path in life, Guert Affentlight, the college president who begins to pursue a love affair that will destroy his career; Pella, Guert’s daughter who is floundering from an abusively manipulative marriage. All of these obsessively single-minded people are confronted with the folly of life, the inability to control the ball as it teeters over the foul line, rolling independent and unmindful of everything around it, like life.

Harbach’s novel isn’t perfect, but even the most perfect of games often carries a blemish. Harbach occasionally loses his way in the narrative, almost working too hard to cobble a plot that carries his themes. Similarly, in Henry and Schwatz, he’s created such single-minded and obsessed people that their credibility as real humans comes into question – their workout routines, eating habits, and sleep schedules really push the boundaries of plausibility. But outside of these faults, Harbach presents an addictive read.

Baseball isn’t life; I know that somewhere in my rational brain. But in my heart, I see so much of life reflected on the field. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand to see the Giants to lose even one game, why I want every pitcher to pitch the perfect game, even though I know that the reality of life is that they will fail more often than they succeed. It is the search for perfection, the hope of permanent brilliance that keeps the heart alive. Harbach taps into that elusive knowledge with [The Art of Fielding], bringing a brief moment of brilliance into the routine of life.

Bottom Line: A baseball book that beautifully taps into the connections between the game and life.

4 ½ bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | May 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 166 (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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Epigraph
So be cheery, my lads
Let your hearts never fall
While the bold Harpooner
Is striking the ball.

--Westish College fight song
Dedication
For my family
First words
Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game.
Quotations
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Au Wetish College , petite université sur les rives du lac Michigan , Henry Skrimshander est devenu une véritable star du baseball: il conclut tous ses matches par un sans-faute . Jusqu'au jour où il rate un lancer facile . Son destin ainsi que celui de quatre personnes vont alors prendre un tour décisif.
Haiku summary

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 6 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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