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Viva El Libros: The Art of Fielding

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A novel by Chad Harbach

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While absolutely outrageous Nolan Arenado and St. Louis Cardinals rumors swirl around and All The Houston Astros get suspended for cheating, here we stay, cozy, content, unbothered and absorbed in a good book. It is my favorite place to be. We can only hope this 512 page tale that is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach can take us all the way through the cold, desperate month of January and into hopeful, tantalizing month of February. Spring Training awaits us, but first we must make it through the toughest trek of the offseason. Perhaps the stories of Henry Skrimshander, Guert Affenlight, Owen Dunne, Mike Schwartz, and Pella Affenlight can help us get through.

A fictional novel published in 2011, this book is quite a change of pace from our previous El Libro, The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It. The book starts us off at a baseball tournament in Perioa, Illinois. There, fate seemingly draws Henry and Mike to meet and bring them to same collegiate baseball team. The story diverges from hope, to love, to tragedy, all over the course of a baseball season. This coming-of-age tale is said to make the reader feel. It is a story about baseball, but more so about the people around it. As Gregory Cowels of The New York Times writes in his review:

If it seems a stretch for a baseball novel to hold truth and beauty and the entire human condition in its mitt, well, “The Art of Fielding” isn’t really a baseball novel at all, or not only.

Jon Michaud of The New Yorker agreed stating his review:

“The Art of Fielding” has often been referred to as a baseball novel, but I think it is more truly a campus comedy, as much in the tradition of “Lucky Jim” and “Straight Man” as it is of “The Natural” (though it places sports in the central spot usually occupied by academics)

Not all reviews were positive, though. Some found the book to be far too long. Others have claimed it does not live up to the hype. As B.R. Myers of The Atlantic wrote:

For all his friend’s [Keith Gessen] talk of transformative rewrites, the final version is still as light and insubstantial as a 512-page book can be. It’s not so much what happens or doesn’t as the elfin tone in which everything is narrated; baseball, aging, lust, death, even an actual corpse—all get the same twinkly treatment. Harbach seems content keeping us just this side of seriousness, so that reading his novel through is like submitting to a long and almost imperceptibly light tickling.

While the lightheartedness might not be for everyone, during the dreary months of January I think it will be a nice change of pace. I am already a few chapters in and am excited to read more! I have checked out this book at my local library. The book is also available where most places books are sold and on Kindle. There is a lovely audiobook as well. I look forward to reading it with you!

A Swing and a Miss | The Atlantic

The Admirable Lightness of “The Art of Fielding” | The New Yorker