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The Art of Fielding: A Novel Paperback – May 1, 2012


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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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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

"An intricate, poised, tingling debut. Harbach's muscular prose breathes new life into the American past-time, recasts the personal worlds that orbit around it, and leaves you longing, lingering, and a baseball convert long after the last page."—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife

"The Novel of the Month Season Year.... Riveting...[The Art of Fielding] emerges fully formed, a world unto itself. Harbach writes with a tender, egoless virtuosity...There's just something so easy and riveting about the way this book's layers unfold; not since Lonesome Dove have I been so sorry to let a group of characters go."—Andres Corsello, GQ

"One of those rare novels - like Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh or John Irving's The World According to Garp - that seems to appear out of nowhere, and then dazzles and bewitches and inspires, until you nearly lose your breath from the enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as the unexpected news-blast that the novel is very much alive and well."—James Patterson

"Spectacular! The Art of Fielding is a wise, warm-hearted, self-assured, and fiercely readable debut, which heralds the coming of a young American writer to watch....You won't want this book to end."—Jonathan Evison

"When the best shortstop alive sounds believably like a Tibetan lama, and when a thrown ball striking a shovel head at dawn leaves your own head ringing with certainty that truth and friendship have triumphed, you know you're in the hands of a writer you can trust."—David James Duncan

"Not being a huge fan of the national pastime, I found it easy to resist the urge to pick up this novel, but once I did I gave myself over completely and scarcely paused for meals. Like all successful works of literature The Art of Fielding is an autonomous universe, much like the one we inhabit although somehow more vivid."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and How It Ended

"Beautifully made, surpassingly human, and quietly subversive, The Art of Fielding restores one's faith in the national pastime--i.e., reading and writing novels."—Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316126670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316126670
  • ASIN: 0316126675
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,082 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

477 of 546 people found the following review helpful By Sean Rueter VINE VOICE on 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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167 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Heather Adair on 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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102 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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