The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Patricia Palleschi
Adjunct Faculty, MAOM

This book is about baseball “like Moby Dick is a book about whales.” The Art of Fielding is Harbach’s first book and he crisply tells a tale about a college age baseball player who plays baseball beautifully and for the beauty of it. Henry considers fielding an “art” and as a shortstop he is a virtuoso.

No matter what age, there comes a point where we know that we can’t do something any better — and it is time to quit. Of course, everyone (not just Henry) goes through a sense of loss every moment when we reflect on the imperfection of our lives. It is the human condition to have to change and deteriorate. And it is an important part of growing up to learn (and relearn) this fact.

There is no easy way to describe this book (which took Harbach ten years to write!).

It also includes a gay love affair, a heterosexual break up and makes tragedy almost (touchingly) funny. Every character is fascinating (my favorite is Owen). Every character is quirky — but not so quirky that their travails can’t touch the soul and not so stuffy so that the book touches the soul in a totally unselfconscious way.

I hate baseball, but I loved this book.
Seventeenth Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture, March 30, 2012, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“For the rest of us, there’s always basketball season.” Interview with Chad Harbach, The Paris Review
“Partial list of the world’s best baseball books.” Innings Through Time
“Yes, the author of Moby Dick, who sailed to London, Rome and Constantinople, rounded Cape Horn, and stopped at Hawaii, Tahiti and the Galapagos, also visited Milwaukee.” PORTALWISCONSIN.ORG

Carly Rubach

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