People love to talk about the "great
" books that aren't good reads. There's also the crap that people call "beach reads" but gobble up without taking seriously. But The Art of Fielding
falls under a third category: A book I didn't like so much that I wanted to keep reading it.
I wanted to like it, I did. I like books that take place in college. I like baseball. I like baseball metaphors even more. but it felt like a book that took 10 years to write and not in a good way. Characters that I imagine Harbach struggled with, felt
like he struggled with them and instead of dealing with it, he just left them hanging. He built up Henry and then had him fall apart so very quickly to such extremes AND THEN (spoiler) for no clear reason he makes amends (though I guess the extent of the amends is debatable). I think what bothered me the most though, was that this felt like a Tom Wolfe novel (the most obvious is
I Am Charlotte Simmons
) but instead of creating complicated characters who have to deal with the consequences of their actions or characters who don't deserve the abundance of good luck that comes their way and know it, his characters are so one-dimensional that as much as I wanted to care about them, I couldn't. There's a benefit to realism, but if you don't create the "real," yet exciting (or at least compelling) characters to go with, why read it?
I'm not sure why I wanted to keep reading it. Maybe it was in order to respond to people who sing its praises. Maybe it was to be justified in my dislike. Regardless, I propose a new genre of reading: anger reading (better name suggestions welcome).