Andrew Campbell's Reviews > The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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's review
Apr 28, 12

did not like it
Read from September 15 to October 13, 2011

*mild spoilers*

100 pages in and the author has already *twice* withheld information from the reader which would be apparent to the character. Is there a name for this?

The first time it's dialogue overheard by a character, dialogue which the reader is meant to mistake for sex when in fact it's two people lifting weights. But the character is outside the weight room, so there's no chance that /he/ would think it's sexual.

The next occurrence: one character is straining for a glimpse of another, worried that his interest will betray his crush. While the identity of this man's interest has not yet been provided to the reader (though simple, literary math makes its deduction almost perfunctory), and so the character's name (the crushee) is not used till the end of the passage, it is known to the crusher.

Thing is, I get the intended *effect* of both these passages. They're just so calculated for the reader, foreign to the characters.

---> Now just under 200 pages in... this is not a good book. It has the appearance of a good book, the elements of a good book, but I'm very close to abandoning it. Plotted and paced like a soap opera, and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, the writing is middling and its "insights" banal rather than revealing or challenging.

---> page 237: a character tries to will himself to have an erection: "Missles, redwoods, the Washington Monument." I wish this was meant to be funny. Seriously, Austin Powers shows more ingenuity with imagery than this book.

---> two major characters sleep together for no good reason other than that they're alone in the same room. This may happen in college, but as these two characters have been drawn, it just doesn't ring true- and the consequences of the liaison seem rather convenient for the narrative.

---> page 429: "Melville had once called America a seat of snivelization; what Affenlight wanted was a seat of swivelization." This is what passes for "humor" in The Art of Fielding: strained, self-congratulatory literary reference that is not only inorganic but also wastes both words and the reader's time.

Other demerits: a dramatically timely death; cardboard characterizations of every figure on the fringes of the narrative; abandonment of subplots; "cliffhanger" chapter breaks; withholding of information sheerly for dramatic effect; obvious dialogue. Also, can we get a moratorium on the Saintly Gay Sage character? For pete's sake, this one's nickname is even "the Buddha."

Yes, now I'm finished. There is a certain satisfaction in the terribleness of The Art of Fielding— particularly when by the end it veers off into John Irving territory. What a pat, pretentious, superficial book. I would call it a waste, but that would mean the writing showed promise.

The Art of Fielding is to the novel what the summer blockbuster is to the movies: a heavily hyped investment property that appears to contain all the elements of a satisfying story but, on its release, reveals itself as anything but a rewarding experience.
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02/18 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-14)

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message 14: by Kyle (new)

Kyle Potter Wow! However did you make it to the end? I guess if I just focused on missiles, redwoods, and the Washington Monument, I could manage it...

Samantha Hoffman This book has gotten so much attention and I have to ask a question.
(Just an aside, do the names make you crazy? I worked very hard at getting past that but...Skrimshander, Affenlight, Starblind, Westish...
Okay, not that big a deal. But really...)
This is a book recommended by Chicago Tribune and my cousin, two respectable sources. I just don't get it. I wanted to like it. I've read about 1/3 of it. I was interested for a few pages but now I'm bored and disgusted.
Does it bother anyone that at the heart of this story is a sexual relationship between a college president and a student?
It's not well-written. The story is contrived, it goes nowhere. Should I go on?
Why is this so hyped? How did that happen?
The Art of Fielding is to baseball what Fifty Shades of Grey is to soft-porn.
I'm with you on your review, Andrew.

Marcia I agree on all your criticisms. Was the Owen character supposed to be a reference to Irving's Owen Meany?

Samantha Hoffman I finally gave up. It might not be fair to post a review if you didn't finish the book but I posted it anyway. You can read it here:

Andrew Kasten I echo the sentiment. A book I so desperately wanted to like. It alerted my senses and offered some initial intrigue but so much was forecasted and such little rising action that I wanted to fast-peddle to the end. I feel satisfied to have just simply finished and nothing more.

Neal Sanders Touche!

Matt Mooney What????

Michael O'Neill I agree with everything you said, BUT, for some reason I enjoyed the book anyway. Maybe because I listened to an Audible version and it didn't require any work.

Samantha Hoffman That's so interesting, Michael. It's true, sometimes books don't have to be great as long as we're entertained. And maybe don't overanalyze.

message 5: by Michael (last edited Feb 16, 2013 09:34PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Michael O'Neill Samantha wrote: "That's so interesting, Michael. It's true, sometimes books don't have to be great as long as we're entertained. And maybe don't overanalyze."

Go figure! I liken it to a made-for-TV mini-series. Once you watch the first episode you have to come back every night "to see what happens". Even though it's low budget trash you stick to it through thick and thin, the "reward" of vegging out after a hard day at work.

Alicia Duell What a great review. I am on the precipice of abandonment (not yet halfway through) so was looking for others who share my disdain for the writing, the characters, the "humor", and YES to the stupid name for the sage gay character. Think I will jump ship. Thank you!!

Jimmy Rumple The worst name in the book-- Aparicio Rodriguez. Simply combine the names of two of the best fielders from the 60s, Luis Aparicio and Aurelio Rodriguez. Clever genius, right? NO! Lazy and lame!

Jimmy Rumple The worst name in the book-- Aparicio Rodriguez. Simply combine the names of two of the best fielders from the 60s, Luis Aparicio and Aurelio Rodriguez. Clever genius, right? NO! Lazy and lame!

Greg Z Andrew, nice review! "Fielding" was my favorite book of the century so far until I just read "A Little life." Anyway, I found "Fielding", obviously, a bit more comical than you, I saw as a different take on standard campus novels, and I also saw it as an odd companion to "The Chosen" which also was about baseball and friendship.

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