Fashion Book: The Art of Fielding
I finished The Art of Fielding a few days ago, and I’m experiencing that feeling of sadness when you’re done with a book you truly enjoyed, the unwillingness to embark on a new book for fear that this one will be erased. I know, I know–a book about baseball? Yawn. But hear me out–though baseball is the driving force that brings the characters together in this novel, it’s secondary to the bonds they form with each other and the community of their college campus.
Though this book has been out for months, it seems the recent release in paperback has sparked interest anew. I’ve seen several people reading it on the train lately, and there’s been no small amount of contention in the reading community about the book’s literary merits. One article even declared reading the book was a “waste of time.” I was skeptical about the amount of buzz this book got initially as well–the author, Chad Harbach, is one of the founders of lit mag juggernaut N +1 and has more than his fair share of literary street cred already. But I was also glad when it was chosen for my book club this month–the perfect reason to finally find out what all the fuss was about.
Completely aside from arguments about contemporary literary fiction, large advances, and the insular nature of the publishing industry, I really enjoyed the book. I liked the characters, I was compelled by their relationships, and I especially found myself relating to the experience of living on a small, somewhat idyllic college campus. I acknowledge that the book is far from perfect, and there are some issues with the plot, etc. But I think too much pressure is being put on Harbach to live up to the reputation the literary buzz has put on him. He wrote a pleasant novel about baseball and college and relationships. Does it have to be the next “Great American Novel” to be considered valid and enjoyable?
That’s another tangent for another day, though–for now, I just want to say that I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t want to put it down. I would say I enjoyed reading this book more than any book I’ve read in the last few months, which is saying something, I think.
The novel centers on Henry Skrimshander, a talented but scrawny shortstop who is discovered by Mike Schwartz, a catcher on the Westish College baseball team. Schwartz, an aggressively persuasive and determined guy, maneuvers a place at Westish for Henry, who didn’t believe he would be able to go to college. Together, the two embark on a rigorous training regiment, forming a somewhat co-dependent bond. Meanwhile, Henry’s roommate Owen (also on the baseball team) embarks on a strange relationship of his own after being injured (by an errant throw made by Henry himself). Pella and Guert Affenlight round out the cast of main characters–Guert is President of Westish, and Pella is his prodigal daughter, returning to Westish after a failed marriage. The novel is not only about friendship, college life, and love, but it’s also about thwarted ambition, what it means to succeed and fail, stasis and depression, and recovery.
Anyway, rather than create an outfit for Pella, who spends most of the book in a Westish sweatshirt, I thought I would put together a look for attending a baseball game, just for fun. No matter that I wore a neon pink t-shirt and leopard flats to the Mets game I attended a few weeks ago–this is more traditional.
Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?