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The Art of Fielding

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The Art of Fielding is a baseball-themed novel published by Chad Harbach (born in 1975) in 2011.

The novel follows young shortstop Henry Skrimshander as he is recruited by Division III Westish College, a small liberal arts college on the Lake Michigan shore of Wisconsin. Skrimshander works himself, with the help of catcher and mentor Mike Schwartz, into a top prospect for the upcoming amateur draft. A scrawny kid from rural South Dakota, Skrimshander amazes Schwartz at an amateur tournament by his fielding prowess. Henry grew up idolizing St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Aparicio Rodriguez (a fictional combination of Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith) and is an absolutely dazzling defender, having learned every word of Rodriguez's treatise on playing shortstop, entitled The Art of Fielding.

While revolving around baseball, the novel explores other themes, including homosexuality and the passage from boyhood to manhood. There are also a large number of allusions to Herman Melville and his seminal novel Moby Dick (Skrimshander's name is derived from a minor character from the great whaling novel; the team is named the Harpooners in honor of a visit made by Melville to the school's campus in the 1880s, and Westish College President Guert Affenlight, a key character in the book, is a famous Melville scholar).

The novel was very well received, making a number of prestigious end-of-year lists of the best litterary fiction published in 2011, although it also received a few scathing reviews, mainly from critics who consider it unthinkable that a literary novel of any worth could be published in this day and age. For example, Jedediah Purdy of The Atlantic Monthly called it the "most overrated book of the year".

[edit] Further Reading

  • Chad Harbach: The Art of Fielding, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY, 2011. ISBN 0316126691
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