lefaquin’s #CBR5 Review #2: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

At this point, I read this book about 2 months ago. I’ve been putting off the review – for no particular reason at all but general busywork. I absolutely loved it The Art of Fielding. I thought it was a fantastic novel. Even if you have no interest in baseball whatsoever, it’s still a great novel. I was just skimming through HelloKatieO’s review from last year, and I think she summed it up well – it’s similar to The Marriage Plot (which I read last year) and Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City (although I think that might be better) and she also compared it to Jennifer Egan’s A Visit to the Goon Squad.  They fall in this realm of (very) good literature that offers a critique of American culture, has beautiful prose, flawed/tragic characters and for me at least, I absorb the books in sort of a dream-like state.

If you have enjoyed any one of these novels, you’ll definitely really enjoy reading The Art of Fielding, which brings together a bunch of undergraduates at Westish College, all rallying around the baseball team and it’s underdog cum star player cum potential washout, Henry Skrimshander.

Throughout the book, Harbach uses baseball as a metaphor, but also as the ‘show’ part of ‘show and tell’ for Henry, his friends, his life, and the mental state of characters. The way Harbach describes baseball perfectly captures the grace and agility that makes it such an interesting (or if it’s not your thing, boring) sport to watch. The ways in which characters quietly strive for perfection, on and off the baseball field, are all united in their team’s struggle to become viable champions. Henry is originally recruited by Mike, a senior player on the team, and struggles to bulk up, to prove his worth to the team, but eventually becomes the leader, the bellwether of the team’s strength and capabilities. I’m not quite sure how to talk more about the book without summarizing the plot – but that’s not to say that it’s not worth enjoying, or that there aren’t deeper themes running through.