Ellen's Reviews > The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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Mar 01, 2012

really liked it
Read in February, 2012

Pretty much hyped as the latest Great American Novel (note the capitalisation), I had high hopes for this first novel. As a first novel, it is excellent. As a novel, it's a bit weaker. I'm surprised that, as a first novel, it wasn't edited a bit more tightly.

Here in Britain, reviewers wondered if the baseball narratives would be too much for British readers. They shouldn't be a problem, however as they're the best written part of the book. It's when Harbach leaves behind the baseball diamond and training areas that the book starts to falter -- when the players meet real life. Minor characters come and leave forever, without any real explanation, such as Genevieve and David, brought in, perhaps, to prop up one idea and then discarded. I was particularly disappointed by how quickly David disappeared from our view. And whatever happened to Aparicio Rodriguez, who slid in and out faster than a runner stealing home? (Sorry, couldn't resist!) Guert Affenlight's very late mid-life crisis disappointed me because it was too predictable. Also, although the book's ending made sense, it just didn't seem to fit with what came earlier.

However, that said, I giggled over the names, especially those with Moby Dick and Herman Melville connections. After all, there's a huge Melville connection with the college and Affenlight, the university president, himself -- Melville is what made Affenlight's name in the very beginning, and the book's ending felt a bit as if Harbach was forced to find a way to wind up his tale with Melville.

A bit of Melville, a bit of baseball. There's also quite a bit of good writing here. But I'm curious to see what will happen with Harbach's next book; I fear that the publisher will have even less editing control.
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