Tag: Chad Harbach

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to review our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he throws a ball that hits his roommate and friend Owen in the face. Will Henry be able to overcome the crippling self doubt that puts his future career in baseball — and even his life — in jeopardy?

Literary Fiction

As Karen mentioned in her review, this novel is an example of literary fiction.  If reading through this Bestseller Code list has taught me nothing else, it has revealed to me how much I dislike reading literary fiction. Spending excessive time in a person’s head mulling over his or her inner turmoil is claustrophobic. Even when a character does something interesting it is so overthought and overwrought that it loses impact.

It is a matter of taste, of course. Everyone has their own preferences. For example, I absolutely love ballet. I would gladly give up much to see someone dance for a couple of hours. Some people, on the other hand, would rather be poked with forks than subjected to the same performance.

Come to think of it reading this novel was rather like being poked with forks; ones which, of course, Pella washes afterwards.

 

Let’s review the specifics.

Characters

The characters in the book all intertwine in ways that makes six degrees of separation seem capricious. First we meet Mike Schwartz, a college athlete who has the skills to make things happen. When he sees Henry Skrimshander chase balls after a game, he realizes the kid has talent. He brings Henry to Westish college to play baseball. Henry’s roommate is Owen, the object of affection for Westish College President Affenlight who is the father of Pella who starts a relationship with Mike, but then sleeps with Henry.  Yes, it is all a bit incestuous to say the least.

In fact, so much so that when Affenlight begins to pine for the affection of a mysterious “O” it didn’t take a second to guess that it is Owen. It couldn’t be anyone else. There isn’t anyone else.

Setting

The vast majority of the “action” (I use that term loosely) takes place at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin.  The campus resembles many others,

“…the green groomed lawn and the gray stone buildings that surrounded it, the sun just risen over the steamy lake and the mirrored-glass facade of the library…”

yet intimidates Henry, who doesn’t feel like he belongs.

Themes

Literary fiction is all about themes. Along with themes about human relationships (which may be why the computer chose it), I noticed a strong theme of people’s relationships with food. Specifically, people depriving themselves of or pushing away food.

For example, on page 156 Pella :

“Once , late at night, not long after she’d moved to San Francisco, she’d really, really wanted to cut up a slightly mushy avocado and rub the pit in her hands. It was an ecstasy-type desire, though she hadn’t taken ecstasy. She made David drive her to three supermarkets to find the right avocado. She told him she was craving guacamole — a more acceptable urge, if just barely. Luckily he’d fallen asleep while she was rolling the slimy pit in her palms, pretending to make guacamole. In the morning, having buried the chips and the yellow-green mush in the kitchen trash, she claimed to have eaten it all. She still had no idea how to make guacamole. “

On page 185, Owen reveals when he broke up with his boyfriend Jason that he had stopped eating. Henry was there to force him to eat. Later Owen, who is vegan, also refuses to eat fish.

On page 415, we find out roommates Noelle and Courtney live on red wine and Red Bull. On the next page, Henry has also given up on eating, and maybe drinking coffee, too.

“The thought of no more coffee and no more food made him momentarily happy.”

Rejecting food is a symbol for the emotional pain of the character.

I recently read a discussion about counter themes. In this case Henry’s use of the body building powder would be a counter theme.

Discussion

With literary fiction, we expect a lot of “fancy” writing to show off the author’s cleverness. Although Harbach’s writing is complex, as seen in the avocado paragraph above, it stays pretty much grounded. There aren’t any tricks or gimmicks, unlike Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. For that, I applaud.

If you’d like to read more about the author and how the book came about, Vanity Fair has an interesting article from 2014. The Atlantic also has an insightful review.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Let’s look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a reader’s perspective.

For a summary of The Art of Fielding, please check out its introductory post.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Literary Fiction

The Art of Fielding is our second book in a row from the Literary Fiction genre, but it couldn’t be more different from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   Whereas Extremely Loud felt disjointed, confused, even haphazard in its presentation, The Art of Fielding led me on a journey of human emotions almost seamlessly, flowing easily from one chapter to the next.  Instead of feeling as though I was being dragged through the author’s artistic journey without a road map, as was the case with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Art of Fielding led me slowly but surely along the intended path, picking up the author’s breadcrumbs (foreshadowing) and never panicking that I was lost or had missed some vital direction sign.  And on top of that, it was a very satisfying journey.

Henry’s Collapse

Henry’s sole reason for being is to be the best shortstop ever, just like his idol St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Aparicio Rodriquez, who wrote a treatise on playing shortstop, The Art of Fielding. Henry has read this book so many times, he knows it by heart and often refers to its nuggets of baseball (life) truisms.

 3.  There are three stages:  Thoughtless being.  Thought.  Return to thoughtless being.

33.  Do not confuse the first and third stages.  Thoughtless being is attained by everyone, the return to thoughtless being by a very few.

Unfortunately, after Henry throws an errant ball that injures his friend and roommate, Owen, he begins second guessing himself, double-clutching throws.  Each error brings on even more self-doubt, until it seems impossible to break the cycle.  Henry then falls into a downward spiral.  If he no longer can see himself as the best shortstop he can be, then what is he?  Who is he?  Henry = Shortstop = Henry  is no longer a valid equation and he has nothing to replace that identity.  Having seen this happen to loved ones in real life – the loss of a career leading to a loss of identity – I found his ensuing depression heartbreaking and believable.

Debut Novels

We’ve read a surprising number of debut novels in this reading challenge, which should be heartening to any wanna be author – you too can hit a home run with your first novel and reach beyond the outfield fence – in this case, the New York Times Bestseller List.  All it takes is a great set of characters, a mix of  human emotions (love, betrayal, fear of growing old), and a relatable setting, such as the backdrop of a college baseball diamond (or a race track {The Art of Racing} or a waterfront condo in Chicago {The Silent Wife} or a town like Mill River Vermont {The Mill River Recluse}).  Isn’t that encouraging?

What’s most encouraging to me as a reader is that I finally really enjoyed a Literary Fiction novel from this challenge.  I hope that, as we get closer and closer to the best books at the end of this list, that there will be more glittering diamonds like The Art of Fielding.

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BookBeginnings The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Today I’m reading the next book in The Bestseller Code Challenge, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

 

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he messes up an easy throw which leads to disaster. With his future in jeopardy, can Henry overcome his crippling self doubt?

The Art of Fielding is a work of literary fiction.

First Sentence:

Schwartz didn’t notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did — that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry’s every move.

Discussion:

Baseball and literary fiction seem like an odd combination, but I like what I’ve read so far.

What do you think? Would you read The Art of Fielding?

 

#BestsellerCode100: Number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he messes up an easy throw which leads to disaster, and the lives of those around him are changed. With his future in jeopardy, can Henry overcome his crippling self doubt?

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

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