Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Chad Harbach, THE ART OF FIELDING
Several months ago, a friend gave me an article in Vanity Fair about a debut author named Chad Harbach who had spent ten years writing a book that took as its starting point a college shortstop who makes one terrible throw, gives his teammate a concussion, and loses all confidence in his arm. Many rejections and revisions later, the book is a NYT bestseller. (A happy thing for all of us that Harbach didn't lose all confidence in his pen.) And it's not a baseball book. The novel is set in a small college in the crook of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin. (Wisconsin was my stomping ground for two winters ... as in stomping the snow off my boots for six months of the year; but I remember it fondly.) There are five characters whose lives are intertwined: Henry the phenom shortstop, his mentor Mike Schwarz, Henry's roommate Owen, the president of the college with whom Owen is having an affair, and the president's daughter who has fled her mistake of a first marriage. Fielding serves as a metaphor, but it's done with a light touch. Of the five, I think the most sympathetically drawn character is Mike Schwarz, the catcher for the team; he doesn't take good care of himself, but he catches people as they fall.