The Art of Fielding: A Novel (Paperback)
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach...ah, the bliss! Once in awhile a novel comes along that captivates. Why, you ask? A book about baseball, boys, a tiny liberal arts college..who cares? I challenge you to pick it up and try to put it down. This is not just the opinion of a random bookseller; it was chosen by the New York Times and NPR as as one of the top ten books of 2011. Every character is deeply flawed and equally compelling. The Paris Review said that The Art of Fielding is a novel about baseball the way that Moby Dick is a fish story. Several customers have come into the store saying, "Best book of the year."
Anna, the erudite and encyclopedic newsletter editor and functional manager of Diesel Brentwood, asked me for three paragraphs and lots of feelings about this novel. I find quoting a choice passage the best defense against blowing hot air whilst illustrating Harbach's way with words...
"I don't know, Skrim." Schwartz shook his big head sadly. "Remember when it was easy to be a man? Now we're all supposed to look like Captain Abercrombie here. Six pack abs, three percent body fat. All that rap. Me, I hearken back to a simpler time. Schwartz patted his thick, sturdy midriff. A time when a hairy back meant something." "Profound lonliness?" Starblind offered. "Warmth. Survival. Evolutionary advantage. Back then, a man's wife and children would burrow into his back hair and wait out the winter. Nymphs would braid it and praise it in song. God's wrath waxed hot against the hairless tribes. Now that's all forgotten. But I'll tell you one thing: when the next ice age comes, the Schwartzes will be sitting pretty. Real pretty."— From Mia
Summer 2012 Reading Group
“Every now and then, a life-affirming novel comes along that gets everybody talking and The Art of Fielding is such a book. It is an accomplished first novel sure to raise the bar for every debut in the near future. Building from the loaded bases of a Wisconsin college baseball field, Harbach's team is like family; we cheer their victories, feel their losses, and grow up a little more with every lesson learned. Anyone claiming to be a reader cannot miss this grand slam of a book.”
— Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
September 2011 Indie Next List
“Despite having reservations about a 'baseball book,' reading this debut novel I discovered that baseball is every bit as exciting and excruciating as any thriller, as complicated as any psychological mystery, and as heartbreaking as my favorite romance. Harbach loves his characters, and never lets them off easily. All the words I want to use to describe this book -- original, heartfelt, classic, hilarious, wise, unforgettable -- are insufficient. I loved every word of it.”
— Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
At Westish College, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league until a routine throw goes disastrously off course. In the aftermath of his error, the fates of five people are upended. Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.
As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, "The Art of Fielding is mere baseball fiction the way Moby Dick is just a fish story" (Nicholas Dawidoff). It is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.
About the Author
Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is a cofounder and coeditor of n+1.
"Chad Harbach has hit a game-ender with The Art of Fielding. It's pure fun, easy to read, as if the other Fielding had a hand in it--as if Tom Jones were about baseball and college life."—John Irving
"An intricate, poised, tingling debut. Harbach's muscular prose breathes new life into the American past-time, recasts the personal worlds that orbit around it, and leaves you longing, lingering, and a baseball convert long after the last page."—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife
"The Novel of the
"One of those rare novels - like Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh or John Irving's The World According to Garp - that seems to appear out of nowhere, and then dazzles and bewitches and inspires, until you nearly lose your breath from the enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as the unexpected news-blast that the novel is very much alive and well."—James Patterson
"Spectacular! The Art of Fielding is a wise, warm-hearted, self-assured, and fiercely readable debut, which heralds the coming of a young American writer to watch....You won't want this book to end."—Jonathan Evison
"When the best shortstop alive sounds believably like a Tibetan lama, and when a thrown ball striking a shovel head at dawn leaves your own head ringing with certainty that truth and friendship have triumphed, you know you're in the hands of a writer you can trust."—David James Duncan
"Not being a huge fan of the national pastime, I found it easy to resist the urge to pick up this novel, but once I did I gave myself over completely and scarcely paused for meals. Like all successful works of literature The Art of Fielding is an autonomous universe, much like the one we inhabit although somehow more vivid."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and How It Ended
"Beautifully made, surpassingly human, and quietly subversive, The Art of Fielding restores one's faith in the national pastime--i.e., reading and writing novels."—Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision