Five words from the blurb: college, baseball, friends, love, American
I hate watching sport, know nothing about baseball and haven’t enjoyed a sports themed book before (not that I’ve read many – I tend to avoid them), but increasing enthusiasm for The Art of Fielding persuaded me to give it a try. I’m pleased that I did as this is a modern classic that will be talked about for years to come.
The first few chapters did their best to put me off – I could see the writing quality, but the endless baseball references did nothing for me.
Without the hype I would probably have abandoned this book after the first few pages, but I persevered and at page 50 I was rewarded with chapter 6 which didn’t mention baseball at all. Instead it introduced Moby Dick, an English professor and a glimpse of the magical writing Chad Harbach is capable of when he talks about something other than sport.
As the book progressed I became increasingly attached to the characters in the book and completed its 500 pages in a surprisingly quick time, but on reaching the end I found I was quietly impressed rather than bowled over with excitement. I didn’t find anything particularly new or interesting in The Art of Fielding. It is simply a well written book about American college life – and I have read a lot of those, although I admit this is one of the best.
I think those who have been through an American college will have a far greater appreciation of this book than I did. I found it very similar to The Marriage Plot in terms of both style and subject matter – with The Art of Fielding being the better book in terms of consistency and message.
I’m also sure that I missed some of the relevant baseball references and their significance on the bigger picture. I’m afraid that those who claim this book will give the reader a passion for baseball are wrong, but I agree that it isn’t necessary to enjoy the sport to appreciate this book.
Despite my criticisms I do think this is a very good book. It is a simple story, but one that is very well told. It is hard not to feel compassion for the well developed characters. I just hope that next time Chad Harbach will devote his time to writing a book that doesn’t contain any sporting references.
Recommended, especially to American graduates.