The Art of Fielding
A wonderful, warm novel from a major new American voice.
In The Art of Fielding, we see sport played in its purest form: by young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College, "a little school in the crook of the thumb of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin," are all they have left. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream - and theirs, vicariously - alive, until a routine throw goes astray. Five lives brought together at Westish - three players, the college's president and his prodigal daughter - are forever changed by Henry's single error.
The novel that unfolds thereafter is many things: a masterpiece of what James Wood would call "free indirect style," but what a lover of fiction would simply recognize as great storytelling; a campus novel as good as any to spring from that well-tilled soil; and a beautiful and trenchant and veracious depiction of sport. It's a warm-hearted, expansive book, one whose intelligence runs as deep as its emotion, and very rarely does one encounter characters that one cares about as much as Henry Skrimshander, Owen Glass, Mike Schwartz and Guert and Pella Affenlight.
'Reading The Art of Fielding is like watching a hugely gifted young shortstop: you keep waiting for the errors, but there are no errors. First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom.' Jonathan Franzen
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 the Executive Editor of n+1, which he co-founded, and lives in Brooklyn.