Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baseball and Life

Baseball and life- that's about the scope of the remarkable debut novel by Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding. Like a few greats before it, Fielding manages to bring together more than words and descriptions to make this all fit together.

Take a near-perfect shortstop phenom at a small Midwestern college; add a student coach who brings him along into greater perfection; then the college president and his daughter and the phenom's gay roommate and you are in rare territory.

Like baseball itself, (trite insight coming) the novel moves at its own pace. Energy here; slowing down there; a little zest here; a lot of wonderful descriptions there. It is subtle and never hidden. You know Harbach is swinging for the fence and you know he will not miss.

He doesn't. It is a book to savor, yet easy to read. I kept trying to put words to the metaphors of the story, but they kept slipping away in Harbach's prose. I tried to make the connections between one scene and the next but all I could do was keep reading.

It is an all-together satisfying read and an all-together fulfilling book. It isn't very often we come across such a wonderful American novel.

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