The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach
Given the centrality of baseball in the lives of American writers, baseball fiction while, not commonplace, has its fair share of accomplished novels (everyone, of course, has their own list)—The Natural by Bernard Malamud, Robert Coover ‘s The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Proprietor, Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly, The Great American Novel by Philip Roth, Percival Everett’s Suder, Michel Chabon’s Summerland, and Tom Grimes's Season's End.
Chad Harbach, whose day job is founding editor of the well-regarded literary journal n +1, debuts as a novelist with The Art of Fielding (Little Brown) a sure-handed drama of five lives acted out against the fortunes of a small midwestern college's baseball team and its star shortstop, Henry Skrimshander. On the eve of setting one of those almost impossible records (eg consecutive errorless games, 3000 hits, 600 home runs, hits in 56 consecutive games) Henry suddenly loses his mojo and 5 people’s lives are capsized. Their struggles to gain equilibrium usher forth a good-natured and humane narrative rendered with a graceful intelligence.