The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011)

I swear this guy must have been on drugs when he wrote this book.  Some of it is beautifully written with fresh perspective, a unique plot, and intriguing characters.  Other parts made me furrow my brow shooting incredulous looks at the screen of my kindle.  I had a hard time believing this was one author.

This coming-of-age story centers around Henry, a so-so high school short stop who gets recruited to play baseball at a small liberal arts college where he becomes a phenom, until his brain gets in the way of his arm. Along the way, we get to know Guert Affenlight, the college president, his wayward daughter Pella, and two other players: Mike, the superstar ball player who recruited Henry out of high school and Owen, Henry’s gay room-mate. And while I loved aspects of each character, I couldn’t get past some believability problems–Owen as a good baseball player even though he rarely practiced and read his book through every college game? Affenlight’s teenage blathering intoxication with Owen? Mike Schwartz’s authority to recruit unknown players and bring them to campus even though he’s only a sophomore?  Those are just a few of the scrunched eyebrow moments on the book.  But there were other times when I was completely drawn into the characters and the writing, like the time when Henry is out on the field in the middle of the night alone with his Art of Fielding book or the description of Owen’s room full of knick knacks on display like he’s ready for a House Beautiful photo shoot even though he’s a freshman in college.  Moments like these felt so real, like the characters just jumped out of the kindle and landed in my living room.  Perhaps ‘inconsistent’ is the best one-word description of the novel, and ‘loses power’ is the best two-word description.  It was about 200 pages longer than it needed to be, but in those first 300 pages, there is much to linger on and much to remember. (fiction)

One comment

  1. I know we were supposed to just read the book reviews for homework tonight and I don’t want this to turn into my 100 word rant. This will be quick and to the point. I’m a sports junkie and I love reading any type of sports books. My father picked this up at the library for me so I figured I’d read it. I started at around 10:00 on a Saturday night and finished at 8:00 on Sunday mourning. I couldn’t put the book down. I understand where there were parts that could and should have been excluded but not 200 pages. After I finished this book I immediately went to the library and tried to find more books by Harbach. I read two but none compared to this. I loved this book and it is definitely one of my favorites.


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