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The Art of Fielding: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Chad Harbach
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,065 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: Though The Art of Fielding is his fiction debut, Chad Harbach writes with the self-assurance of a seasoned novelist. He exercises a masterful precision over the language and pacing of his narrative, and in some 500 pages, there's rarely a word that feels out of place. The title is a reference to baseball, but Harbach's concern with sports is more than just a cheap metaphor. The Art of Fielding explores relationships--between friends, family, and lovers--and the unpredictable forces that complicate them. There's an unintended affair, a post-graduate plan derailed by rejection letters, a marriage dissolved by honesty, and at the center of the book, the single baseball error that sets all of these events into motion. The Art of Fielding is somehow both confident and intimate, simple yet deeply moving. Harbach has penned one of the year's finest works of fiction. --Kevin Nguyen

Review

'It's left a little hole in my life the way a really good book will' Jonathan Franzen 'This is an outstanding novel about sport and, in Henry Skrimshander, Harbach has created a character who will keep sports psychologists in conversation for years' Mike Atherton, The Times 'Charming, warm-hearted, addictive' Guardian 'Once started The Art of Fielding is a book you want to read and read. It is deliciously old-fashioned: it simply gets on with the business of creating vivid, layered characters and telling a good, engrossing story' Daily Telegraph 'An intricate, poised, tingling debut ... leaves you longing, lingering, and a baseball convert long after the last page' Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife, winner of the Orange Prize 'Chad Harbach has hit a game-ender with The Art of Fielding. It's pure fun, easy to read, as if the other Fielding had a hand in it - as if Tom Jones were about baseball and college life.' John Irving Steeped in American tradition, this moving debut hits a home run...What in less skilled hands might have been a light comic novel evolves into a debut of great warmth and weight... This is a charming, moving and slyly profound novel. You might even say Chad Harbach hit this one out of the park' Sunday Telegraph 'Every bit as good as billed. A big, beautiful blowout of a book, sure and generous, it reads like a throwback to the mid-20th century, when American literature was in its pomp... an exceptional debut' Guardian 'A terrifically engaging novel... you will be rewarded by a page-turning, beguiling and wonderfully warm-hearted read'. Sunday Times 'The baseball sequences are terrific... Harbach captures precisely the strangely becalmed grace that sets sportsmen like Henry apart...Very good indeed' Independent

Product Details

  • File Size: 890 KB
  • Print Length: 516 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007374453
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 7, 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QZ9PE2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,242 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
477 of 546 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong writer seeks his editorial equal August 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really liked the first 300 pages of Chad Harbach's debut novel, The Art of Fielding. As I was reading that 3/5 of the book, I probably would have told you that I loved it. But a funny thing happened between that point and turning the final page. The novel drifted, and tried to do things it hadn't before, and ultimately even diluted its own strengths a bit.

Harbach's players are all deserving of praise. They're authentic, human, unique yet relatable - his biggest misstep in their creation is probably their names (another instance where a strong editor maybe could have said, you know, this is distracting). The plot & themes are fairly standard liberal arts college/transitioning to adulthood stuff. The authorial voice is entertaining enough and the various avenues the characters use to avoid or delay their maturation are grounds for meaningful insight, enough that the somewhat cliche' elements are just the field on which Harbach's particular game is played.

The third act drag can mostly be attributed to one thing: in ordering this book, I was anxious about it being a "baseball book". I love baseball and have enjoyed a few fictional journeys into the sport, but generally the game is adequately dramatic and attempts to tell "important" stories in its world fall easily into melodrama. For most of The Art of Fielding, Harbach deftly avoids those traps and temptations. And then, for long stretches of the second half of the novel, it becomes the prose equivalent of underdog sports movies like "Hoosiers". Unfortunately, this is not only distracting, but it's time that could have been spent on resolving and exploring the impact of the interpersonal conflicts that were so well developed in the beginning and middle of the book.
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164 of 189 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was good -- BUT.... November 1, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First thing I'll admit: I purchased this not so much because I was hankering to read a baseball-themed bromance about self-discovery in the dregs of a protein shake, but more because the dollar figure of writer Chad Harbach's advance was leaked to the press and legions of curious had to know if the writing warranted that giant $650,000 figure. As if any of us know what "warranted" looks like in this case, as if we had anything to compare that against. I just knew that was a lot of money, and if a first time novelist could command that dollar figure (in this era of declining advances and tightened publishing company purse strings) , I needed to find out what he was doing right.

I finished it in 3 sittings. Worth mentioning, because I slog through most books in a single evening so there's no petty internal struggle over "WHY" I'm picking the book back up and whether I'm GENUINELY compelled to turn the next page or whether I'm simply reading out of some rote sense of duty to complete the project I've begun.

With this book, that internal struggle was strong each time I hefted the book up onto my lap. Mr Wonderful would ask me, "Is it any good?" and I would say, "I'll wait until I'm done to answer that. I don't know yet." Which was my opinion up until the final pages. "I don't know yet." I was trying to separate my envy over the publicity and the giant advance check from my enjoyment of The Novel in its own right and finding that separation very difficult.

And, as many reviews I read prior to dead lifting the novel warned, this was not a plot-driven baseball story, this was a character-driven baseball story. And it's not a baseball story at all, not really, because there's not really all that much baseball actually played out on the pages.
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746 of 933 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly Awful October 13, 2011
By DEdward
Format:Hardcover
I have never felt compelled to write an online review before. But as someone who reads four or five novels a month (mostly popular fiction) and works in the publishing industry, I find the praise for this book so inexplicable and disturbing that I feel the need to speak out. Cardboard, cliched characters (the coach? Henry's father? the chef? other nominees?) engaged in laughable dialogue (as you read the book, ask yourself whether you know any college students -- any -- who talk this way) in a plot held together by cheap TV-esque cleverness (a gay baseball player who after striking out says the pitcher is cute . . . a scene in which readers are led to believe the main character is overhearing two people engaged in sex behind a door -- but only because the writer holds off telling us for a few paragraphs that the character is at the gym outside the weight room). People and themes disappear without a trace (the architect husband? Gone. Aparicio Rodriguez? Disappeared. The zen-like manual, The Art of Fielding, that is the supposed central conceit of the book? Abandoned somewhere mid-novel). For all the complaints here about the ending -- and it is truly silly and pretentious -- let's not lose sight of the wreck that precedes it.
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98 of 120 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aspiration, Failure, Recovery August 15, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Set in the world of college baseball, this is a book about aspiration, failure, and recovery. Failure is the crux of it, an important theme that Harbach handles beautifully, especially through his intimate understanding of baseball. Where he fails is in developing the theme of aspiration in a non-superficial way, reaching a resolution that is worthy of the preceding crisis, and in creating rounded characters to motivate his action.

As the excellent cover blurb will tell you, there are five major characters. Henry Skrimshander is a phenom, a shortstop with the accuracy of a laser and grace of an angel. Mike Schwartz, as huge is Henry is light, is the team captain, the man who first spotted Henry and recruited him, and remains his personal coach and mentor. Owen Dunne, Henry's roommate, is brilliant, beautiful, and gay; he plays baseball almost as an afterthought, spending most of his time in the dugout reading until called in as a pinch-hitter. Add to these Guert Affenlight, 60 years old, the charismatic president of Westish College on the shore of Lake Michigan, and his beautiful daughter Pella, in flight from a high-school marriage, who will become involved with each of the others in different ways. It's an attractive cast; what's not to like? Nothing, except that their likability results in a lack of depth when it really begins to count.

The crux of the story, as the blurb also mentions, comes during a crucial game in Henry's junior year. Now the most famous player on the team and already being scouted by the major leagues, he makes a single disastrous throw, the first error of his college career. His world falls apart, and the lives of his friends with it. This is certainly a worthy theme for a novel, both literally as it applies to baseball, and as a parallel for life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a triple, hitter jogged to second base.
It's enjoyable enough to read, but has some flaws. The book feels like it was set at least 30 years ago when the world felt a lot smaller, but there are obvious tells that it's set... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Alex Scorpio
3.0 out of 5 stars A PLAYER ON THE DIAMOND
Interesting read with sports as a metaphor, great characters with complicated problems, but the author does not delve into alternative solutions. Read more
Published 8 days ago by sal gal
4.0 out of 5 stars I really loved this book and the message it sent readers
I really loved this book and the message it sent readers. At times it was a bit slow, but overall I highly recommend.
Published 11 days ago by leslie j olsher
5.0 out of 5 stars I absolutely loved this book
I absolutely loved this book. It's not so much about baseball as it is about life and love and failure and, finally, success. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Kristi Wiseman
1.0 out of 5 stars Strike Out
The Art of Fielding is the most boring book full of hot naked men I've ever read. I'd rather watch a baseball game than read The Art of Fielding, and I haven't watched a baseball... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Chance Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exceptional Read!
Published 16 days ago by Donald Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars I left it for some perfect "me time" when I could savor every last...
As a mom of children who played in competitive sports from the earliest possible ages allowed and who are now in college, I could not put this book down. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Ana Manley-Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of my recent favourites. I will be keeping this one to read again.
Published 1 month ago by Darcy Oliver
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
slow
Published 1 month ago by William Graveley
4.0 out of 5 stars Evoking the best parts of David Foster Wallace’s Enfield Tennis...
Evoking the best parts of David Foster Wallace’s Enfield Tennis Academy in Infinite Jest, Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding perfectly captures the atmosphere of small college... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Greg
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More About the Author

Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is a cofounder and coeditor of n+1.

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