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The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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Oct 20, 11

Read from October 14 to 20, 2011

Rarely do I encounter a massive doorstopper of a novel that is also a speedy read. This year I've encountered two: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Chad Harbach's The Aft of Fielding. It's not a coincidence that I mention both those books together. Franzen blurbed Harbach's debut, after all, and in many ways The Art of Fielding reads like a Franzen novel. It's set in the midwest, grapples with questions of privilege and talent, ambition and desire. Not quite a family drama, a strong bolt of filial anguish animates the plot in surprising ways. But, Harbach isn't Franzen. He's his own writer with his own agenda. At it's core The Art of Fielding is a nuanced portrait of sport. I have a passing familiarity with baseball, the legacy of a childhood spent hovering around the dugouts and bleachers while my brother played, so perhaps my perspective is a bit colored. Even still, what Harbach understands, seemingly intuitively, is that baseball is a game built for description. It's subtle evolutions, coming long moments apart, is fecund for interiority. The inevitability of it's drama and disputes spring from the same well as a writers, namely high stakes and big payouts. I could go on, but my thoughts are still a bit fractured. It's a good book with a lot to process. My only criticism is a small one. Near the end the team sings their school chantey; however, since nobody knows how to spell that word they instead are said to have sung a "shanty," which is a small, decrepit house and not a song. But that's just nitpicking. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. And, hopefully, with the new Murakami hitting stores next week I'll get a chance to dig into three massive, and massively rewarding books this year!
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10/17/2011 page 226
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