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The Art of Fielding (2011)

by Chad Harbach

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6352282,405 (3.96)228
"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.
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» See also 228 mentions

English (221)  Dutch (4)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (227)
Showing 1-5 of 221 (next | show all)
Set in the world of college baseball, The Art of Fielding is about aspiration, failure, and recovery. It also tells a compelling story, not only of Henry's challenges, doubts, and triumphs, but also of the love affairs and friendships that tie together the chief characters: Henry Skrimshander, the perfect shortstop until one error leads to a loss of confidence; Mike Schwartz, the mentor and teammate who guides Henry to potential greatness; Owen Dunne, Henry's gay college roommate whose love affair impacts all the other characters; Guert Affenlight, the college president who falls unexpectedly in love for the first time; and Pella Affenlight, his daughter, who is seeking a purpose for her life. All these unfolding stories make the novel very readable. These five characters are bound together in a struggle of love and betrayal that mirrors the art of fielding.

I thought the book was too long but possibly the author felt he needed it so the reader could understand the complexity of the five characters. I didn't love it as much as some of the other members of my book club. I enjoyed the first half but felt let down by the last half. At first I wasn't sure I would like it a book about baseball at all but I believe this is not a baseball novel, but a complex story of relationships and the connections between friends and teammates. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jul 2, 2020 |
There was something about this book that made it different from many of the other contemporary novels I've read. Maybe it was the book's sense of humor, which was refreshing, or the inclusion of sports -- not a common theme for literary fiction! I admit that I had no idea what was happening in the baseball scenes, but I don't think that really took away from my enjoyment of the book.

The book takes a different perspective in every chapter, I thought the author did a better job than most of balancing the various narratives in a fair way, with the exception of the book's only female character, Pella. I thought she was pretty pointless, serving only to teach the boys some sort of lesson. I think that she eased back into a relationship and into returning to school a little too easily. It also bothered me that ran right from the arms of one man to another, and the second man helped her "find herself" the way the first couldn't, or something, because they were the same age? Or something? She's the one strand that I think was finished a little too neatly.

Anyway, this book is definitely worth reading -- if you don't get the sports references, maybe you'll get the early American literature ones. I think there really is something for everyone in this novel. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
I remember when this book came out but forgot about it. I didn't rediscover it until a few weeks ago and I'm so glad I read it.

While I'm not a fan of some of the content (gets pretty risque and very long at points), this book is beautiful. No other way about it. It's hard to describe, but the words Chad Harbach uses are the perfect words to create a beautiful world.

This book is definitely tragic, but really great as well.

Though I rated this book 5-stars, the book itself isn't perfect. I read a review before reading it that said this book is about 200 pages too long, which is spot-on. The middle could have definitely been trimmed without missing anything.

I have a personal connection with this book. See the spoiler if curious.


I played baseball throughout my childhood and I remember very vividly suffering from the same affliction as Henry. I never knew it was called Steve Blass disease, but during the months I couldn't throw, it was a surreal feeling. It was like there was a mental block and couldn't get passed it. It was painful to relive it through this book, but it was also really nice to remember those times and see how I've come through it. Thankfully, I didn't go the way of Henry.
( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
Read this if you like when people use Baseball as a metaphor for stuff. It's a page-turner! ( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
It's books like this one that make me wish Goodreads had a 4.5 option. Great writing, solid characterization, and the descriptions of baseball are so good that, even if you have never watched a game, you get a sense of the physicality and zen of the sport. But the baseball isn't central: the characters and their struggles are. And Owen Dunne gets some of the best lines: "You are skilled! We exhort you!"

Plus the novel is like a mini-homage to Moby-Dick and Melville and Emerson without being in any way didactic. Damn fine novel. ( )
  ChristopherSwann | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 221 (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)
 

» Add other authors

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

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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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Book description
Affecting, subtle, funny, and true. The Art of Fielding is mere baseball fiction the way Moby-Dick is just a fish story. Reading the Art of Fielding is like watching a hugely gifted young short stop: you keep waiting for the errors, but there are no errors. First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom.
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