Ralph's Reviews > The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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's review
Sep 03, 2011

did not like it
Read from September 23 to 28, 2011

I really wanted it to be good, and the first several chapters left me with high hopes. I love baseball. I love literature. I love novels set on campuses ("Straight Man" by Richard Russo is an excellent example).
However, after reading 350 pages, I can't go on. Life is too short. Why so bad? Simply, every major character is not believable in any sense. The cardboard cutouts in this book are pancake-flat. They exist as devices for the author to flex his literary muscles.
My favorite character (Henry) seems to have no real past, no real interests, and little passion - except for exercise, baseball and devotion to Mike Schwartz.
Nothing feels genuine here, and the author uses a baseball bat to beat his "society challenging" ideas into the reader, whether or not these feel genuine at all.
A ladies man College President who - out of left field - inexplicably falls in love with a gay, black student?
A baseball dugout ritual by team members that involves a kiss on the cheek?
A ballplayer who reads books in the dugout during games? What coach would allow this?
The privileged, educated, depressed daughter of the College President excitedly taking a minimum wage job on campus after years of not working? Funny, I haven't seen any rich adults serving at McDonald's lately.

Sadly, the author can really turn a phrase, and is gifted in a purely literary sense. I suggest he studies real people for a while, and captures the art of subtlety.

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09/23/2011 page 111
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