Book Review: The Art of Fielding

29 The Book CoverThe Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach

For more than a decade Chad Harbach polished his prose in obscurity.

Sometimes he barely had a hundred bucks in his bank account, but he never stopped working on his writing.

Like his lead character, Henry Skrimshander, a young phenom playing for an unsung college team in Wisconsin, Harbach kept honing his craft until he approached perfection and achieved national recognition.

After countless rejections from the publishing world, Harbach is now a well-deserved best-selling author. But don’t think that “The Art of Fielding” is a baseball manual. It’s really a funny, inspired look at success, failure and romance, which spans Buddhism and Herman Melville as well as America’s pastime.

The novel’s title refers to a slim book by a star shortstop (also fictitious) that Skrimshander carries around in his back pocket so he can ponder its pearls of wisdom like this one: “The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.”

As the central plot of the book Skrimshander has to overcome his inner demons on a diamond before a capacity crowd. The richly drawn characters revolving around him—his gay roommate, his team captain and the college president’s daughter—bring this “Art” to life, and the fate of  their intense relationships keeps the reader glued to the page until the final out.