Brian Thornton's Reviews > The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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May 02, 12

Read in January, 2012

Harbach is an impressive writer, and this book lives up to much of the hype. As a baseball fan I loved his descriptions of the on and off-field components of "America's Game," as a fan of great language I was impressed by the plethora of Meville references, both over and covert (for example, one of the characters bears the distinctive name of "Guert," and makes his reputation as a Melville scholar. Nowhere in the pages of the book did I see any mention of the fact that "Guert" was also the first name of one of Melville's cousins, a career naval officer who related to Melville the true life story of an at-sea hanging on mutiny charges that led the author to compose "Billy Budd.").

However, for me, Harbach's writing recalls that of Scott Fitzgerald more than that of Melville. His descriptions of the Wisconsin college campus setting recall the best of "Tender is the Night" and "Gatsby." Being a lover of FItzgerald's writing as well, this was obviously another plus for me.

While I give this book a five star rating, I consider its plot far from perfect- especially one of the romantic subplots, which struck me as beyond implausible. I suppose that's to be expected, since relationships in this novel most often seem to come as triads- the senior catcher captain/the main character shortstop/the college president's daughter, the college president/his daughter/his secret love affair, and so on.

All that said, this book is well worth a read. Harbach deserves all of the accolades he is currently collecting.
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