Amber's Reviews > The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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Apr 21, 12

Read in November, 2011


I don’t read a lot of fiction, but the combination of this book being so highly regarded and at least peripherally about baseball was enough to get me to read it, relatively shortly after it was released. I enjoyed this book, although I’m enough out of touch with reading literature that I think I probably didn’t get as much out of it as I could have in a classroom setting. Certainly, it is very well written, not overly flowery like a lot of fiction, and literarily rich but never bogged down by language or sentence structure.

The story is woven very well, and I especially liked the degree of attention paid to men’s relationships with each other, which are often given short shrift in novels, movies, and television. The mentor-mentee relationship between Schwartz and Henry is explored in particular detail, and I thought the book did a good job of addressing how that changes as the mentee no longer has the same mentoring needs.

The author is clearly a serious baseball fan, and he uses the obscurity of baseball rules to much literary success in several instances, not least when Henry’s ninth-inning error is erased, as the game stops to take Owen to the hospital (and so the game’s official ending is the prior, completed inning). The book manages to highlight how unforgiving sports can be but also the opportunity for redemption they offer, if this redemption comes a little too soon relative to what would be most realistic. Too, his writing about how an athlete feels when his career is over I found very well put, in the context of athletes I’ve known and also how I felt when one particularly challenging and demanding job ended.

The book is very postmodern, but has a few funny tongue-in-cheek moments (or at least, they seemed tongue-in-cheek to me), such as: referring to it as “freshperson year”; the high cost, relative to their benefits, of solar panels; mocking the sports macho culture by having Owen announce that he is gay on his first day on the team, and yelling “I exhort you”; and the resume-driven college student who is writing a paper on Hamlet while volunteering at a soup kitchen while dating the football captain, etc.

Recommended first to those looking for recent, serious novels, and second to baseball fans; the book certainly is more of the former than the latter. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
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