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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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2,5141832,409 (3.97)172
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)

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» See also 172 mentions

English (177)  Dutch (4)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (183)
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
This is an interesting book about men and what makes them click; their stubbornness, their insecurities, and their love for each other. It is the type of book that one should appreciate not for how it ends but for how it gets to that ending. Along the way we get to know intimately the baseball players of Westish College, Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz, Owen Dunne, the college's president Guert Affenlight and his daughter Pella. Each has dreams and each has fears and insecurities that threaten to crush them. Pella spends a good deal of time wishing she could understand men but the funny part is that the explanation is right there in the book for the reader to see. ( )
  Unkletom | May 24, 2015 |
Though The Art of Fielding has as its characters those whose lives are somehow connected to the baseball team of a small non-descript liberal arts college in Wisconsin, you don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy it. The characters are compelling and the author has a way with language that you can veritably taste, smell, and feel the surroundings.

For a team from such a small school, it enjoys some unlikely successes on its way to a championship. And then, of course, it comes down the Big Game. Tension: will the team even more miraculously triumph in this one? Or like Rocky in his big fight, will they lose but achieve a personal victory? By this time, both alternatives have become cliches and I wondered what approach the author would take. And it turns out he beats the cliche with a completely satisfying alternative.

John Irving, Jonathan Franzen, and David James Duncan (The Brothers K) all liked this book. If you like any of those authors, you'll like this one too. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
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 | Feb 14, 2015 |
I loved parts of this book, and found other parts exasperating. I think the second half of the book really fell apart for me, but all in all, it wasn't a bad read. ( )
  carebear10712 | Jan 8, 2015 |
Recommended by Laura Lintz and Greg Mortimer

I thought at first that this novel would be about shortstop Henry Skrimshander, but it turned out to be an ensemble cast: not just Henry, but his fellow baseball player and de facto coach, Mike Schwartz; college president Guert Affenlight; Guert's daughter Pella; and Henry's roommate and baseball teammate Owen Dunne ("the Buddha").

Henry is a star shortstop with a near-religious devotion to St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez's book The Art of Fielding. Mike Schwartz discovers Henry and pulls strings to bring him to Westish College, where he shapes him into an even stronger player. The historically unimpressive Westish team begins to win with Mike and Henry, until an errant throw of Henry's injures Owen, and Henry's own confidence.

As Henry spirals downward and Mike is unable to bring him back up, Affenlight falls in love for the first time; and his daughter Pella flees a bad starter marriage and takes refuge at Westish, where she begins to remake her life, and meets Mike.

Throughout this literature- and baseball-laced novel, these five characters work to build themselves, and come to terms with the selves they have built.


But he'd never met someone like Schwartz - someone who, when he wanted something, took immediate steps to acquire it. (12)

"But to the extent that I'm not [happy for him], it's irrational. I had a plan for Henry, and it worked. I had a plan for myself, and that one didn't. I shouldn't take it out on him."
"Well, feelings aren't rational." (Mike and Pella, 141)

Schwartz, for his part, had vowed long ago not to become one of those pathetic ex-jocks who considered high school and college the best days of their lives. Life was long, unless you died, and he didn't intend to spend the next sixty years talking about the last twenty-two. (149)

So much of one's life was spent reading; it made sense not to do it alone. (Affenlight reading Whitman to Owen, 170)

Unless she was just paranoid, living in her head again, but you always lived in your head and you had to go with what you felt. (Pella, 252)

The making of a ballplayer: the production of brute efficiency out of natural genius....Baseball was an art, but to excel at it you had to become a machine. (256-257)

The shortstop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks. Nor does he act. By this I mean that he does not generate action. He only reacts, the way a mirror reacts when you wave your hand before it. (Aparicio Rodriguez's The Art of Fielding, 305)

All he'd ever wanted was for nothing to ever change. Or for things to change only in the right ways, improving little by little, day by day, forever. It sounded crazy when you said it like that, but that was what baseball had promised him....Hitches, bad habits, useless thoughts - whatever you didn't need slowly fell away. Whatever was simple and useful remained. You improved little by little till the day it all became perfect and stayed that way. Forever.
He knew it sounded crazy when you put it like that. To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he'd ever craved since he'd been born. Maybe it wasn't even baseball he loved but only this idea of perfection, a perfectly simple life in which every move had meaning, and baseball was just the medium through which he could make that happen. (Henry, 345-46)

But people didn't forgive you for doing what felt right - that was the last thing they forgave you for. (Pella, 363)

He'd never found anything inside himself that was really good and pure, that wasn't double-edged, that couldn't just as easily become its opposite. He had tried and failed to find that thing, and he would continue to try and fail....he had no art to call his own. (Schwartz, 408)

Deep down, he thought, we all believe we're God. We secretly believe that the outcome of the game depends on us, even when we're only watching....Each of us, deep down, believes that the whole world issues from his own precious body....And then, deeper down, each of us knows he's wrong. (467)

"You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul - not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those who knew you." (Owen to Affenlight, 503) ( )
  JennyArch | Jan 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 177 (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.

Wie aan dit boek begint, wordt een wereld binnengezogen waaruit je niet meer kunt en wilt ontsnappen.
Naast honkbalroman, bildungsroman en campusroman zou je De kunst van het veldspel ook een Melvilleroman kunnen noemen. Zonder dat het hinderlijk wordt (zelfs als je ze allemaal zou opmerken, wat geen lezer zich verbeelde), stikt het boek van de verwijzingen naar met name Moby Dick.
Dit klinkt als gewichtigdoenerij, maar maakt gewoon deel uit van de spitsvondige speelsheid die dit hele boek kenmerkt. De kunst van het veldspel is een jongensboek voor jongens en meisjes van alle leeftijden.
added by sneuper | editde Volkskrant, Hans Bouman (Jan 28, 2012)
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)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chad Harbachprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vermeulen, JorisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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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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