The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
I often receive several books at Christmas, but this year, unusually, I only received one. It was from my sister and I was interested to get it as it was a book she had enjoyed: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. The story revolves around Henry Skrimshander, who attends Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan. Henry is a baseball star who seems destined for big league stardom. However, a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are affected.
Large parts of the novel delve into the mysterious pleasures of playing baseball, whch leave me cold. Even at high school, I was not a fan! Unfortunately, I did not develop much of an interest in the main characters of this novel either. The main characters are: said Henry Skrimshander, a shortstop whiz recruited from rural South Dakota; Owen, his intellectual teammate and roommate, who is gay; Mike, a wise older student who mentors and drives Henry to excel; Guert, the college president who is enamored with Owen; and Pella, Guert’s petulant daughter who returns home after a failed marriage. If I had cared for them all and their struggles and exultations, I am sure I would have loved this book. That was not to be. I found it rather predictable.
The Art of Fielding is well-written, the characters are interesting enough. However, it is a mediocre story without any magic. The story is one without any magic for me and I will not remember the characters’ names for long. I do not understand the fuss and fanfare surrounding this book. I feel, perhaps the many literary references and themes may have tricked academics into praising an ordinary book.
The author, Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin, USA and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is a cofounder and coeditor of n+1.