A Prayer for Chad Harbach(’s The Art of Fielding): A Book Review
This fall I’ve had the good fortune of reviewing top-notch works by Michael Ondaatje, Jeffrey Eugenides and Tom Perrotta, and while there wasn’t a dud in the bunch (to understate the point), Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding was pure pleasure in that most old-fashioned of enjoyable reading experiences.
I keep thinking about the book. About its characters. About its readability. But most of all I love The Art of Fielding for its humanity. This is a warm-spirited novel if ever there was one, and as the days grow shorter and the weather ever more grim, who doesn’t want that kind of soul reaffirming broth to curl up with by the proverbial fire.
Yes, this is a book about baseball. There’s no use in pretending. But it is a book about baseball the way that Sense and Sensibility is a book about marriage. That is to say that baseball and marriage, respectively, are central to the storylines of these narratives. They are not, however, the reason why these stories have legs. And while perhaps Chad Harbach will need to provide us a few more big-hearted, beautifully written novels before we can fairly compare him with Jane Austen, the young(ish) American’s debut novel is undoubtedly something special. It’s the kind of loveable, readable book that could well loiter upon many a Staff Pick’s tables for years to come.