The Art of Fielding: A Novel (Paperback)
This novel was so hard to put down that when I misplaced it I promptly went out and bought another copy. Henry Skrimshander has a 2 ½ year errorless streak going as the shortstop for a small liberal arts college on Lake Michigan. On the day he's about to tie the record he guns to first base and overthrows into the dugout—drilling his teammate between the eyes—sending him straight to the hospital. Henry finds himself losing a battle with self-doubt as his fielding skills grind to halt.
Unhesitatingly, I would put this novel on the same level as David James Duncan's The Brothers K, but I have to warn you it's got a different flavor: mix Melvillian lore, the art of war, and a bright, young writer with ruthless perception—and you've got this bad ass college baseball novel.
Summer 2012 Reading Group
“Every now and then, a life-affirming novel comes along that gets everybody talking and The Art of Fielding is such a book. It is an accomplished first novel sure to raise the bar for every debut in the near future. Building from the loaded bases of a Wisconsin college baseball field, Harbach's team is like family; we cheer their victories, feel their losses, and grow up a little more with every lesson learned. Anyone claiming to be a reader cannot miss this grand slam of a book.”
— Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
September 2011 Indie Next List
“Despite having reservations about a 'baseball book,' reading this debut novel I discovered that baseball is every bit as exciting and excruciating as any thriller, as complicated as any psychological mystery, and as heartbreaking as my favorite romance. Harbach loves his characters, and never lets them off easily. All the words I want to use to describe this book -- original, heartfelt, classic, hilarious, wise, unforgettable -- are insufficient. I loved every word of it.”
— Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
A disastrous error on the field sends five lives into a tailspin in this widely acclaimed tale about love, life, and baseball, praised by the New York Times as "wonderful...a novel that is every bit as entertaining as it is affecting."
Named one of the year's best books by the New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg, Kansas City Star, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Time Out New York. 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.
"First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom." --Jonathan Franzen
About the Author
Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin, and graduated from Harvard in 1997. He was a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he received an MFA in Fiction in 2004. He is currently a co-editor of n+1, which he cofounded, and lives in Virginia.
"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 MonthSeason 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