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June's Book: The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding is the next pick for the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club! It was named one of 2011’s best books by the New York Times and The New Yorker.  Set at a midwestern college where a star shortstop has transformed the school’s baseball team, it follows five characters grappling with the consequences of one wild throw.

Get the conversation started now—leave a comment or question below!

Guests:

Chad Harbach

Comments [21]

Phil from Connecticut

Wonderful book!
Find useful for discussion the ultimately devastating relationship between Owen and Guert. Was interesting, but not quite beleivable in that Owen was going away soon, Guert had so very much to lose (and did), and their ages were so separated.
Also, the exhumation was a bit unbelievable, as well.
Other than that, marvelous and beautifully written. Some of Owen's comments were hilarious!

Mar. 25 2013 04:44 PM
Jesse from NY

As a touring musician, I disagree with your characterization of a baseball team as whaling crew... Multi-millionaires traveling and working towards a goal is very different from what my community and whalers do... Turn the airplanes and busses into broken boats and broken vans and you would still be universes away from truth.

Jun. 28 2012 01:38 PM
Dan from San Diego

Baseball, Soccer, and cricket all have a pastoral quality that inspires contemplative observation. CLR James in Beyond a Boundary reveals the importance of Cricket as a cultural marker in the Caribbean. In my book, Soccer in the Weeds, I look at how differences in race and class informed the development of soccer in southern Connecticut.
My thesis is that there is something about the outdoors, the scent of grass and the open sky, that provides an elemental connection in youth that lingers for life. In my case, soccer was fascinating because of the convergence of cultures around the sport. There are intertwining narratives that can be followed around the globe.

Jun. 28 2012 01:36 PM
Rebecca from Brooklyn

Would love to hear Chad talk about his portrayal of women. There are very few. Pella is needy and sexualized. Her mom dies off. The female professor at the restaurant eats alone... Why no positive portrayals of women?

Jun. 28 2012 01:36 PM
David Bragin from Brooklyn

Is Scrimshander a combination of whaling and nautical terms. A combination of scrimshaw, and shandy?

Jun. 28 2012 01:33 PM
walter from Brooklyn, NY

WHAT!>>!> since when it is such a shock that GAY people might like BASEBALL. and might exist in the same space, and these subjects can attract many different readers.
even the author said, these might "cancel each other out" it's just sad.

Jun. 28 2012 01:31 PM
Charlotte from Port Washington

Yes, baseball always comes first as you boys said...and it's connected to American boyhood and how to be an American MAN.

Ask the author to discuss the evolution of an American definition of being a man, as he sees it.

Therefore, The conversation with Baseball and man hood, Melville and manhood and American men in 21 st century, including homosexuality.

Jun. 28 2012 01:30 PM
Deborah Romano from Brooklyn

What authors do you like or have influenced you? Wonder particularly about John Irving. Couldn't help but be reminded of A Prayer for Owen Meany and the throw that went awry.

Jun. 28 2012 01:17 PM
Ellen Ervin from The Bronx

Just wanted to tell you how much I loved your book. It's beautifully written, and the characters are a wonderful mix of strong male and female. The sex is believable, and not sentimentalized. I happen to love baseball, but that would not be a requirement to enjoy it. Thank you.

Jun. 28 2012 12:39 PM
John from Washington Heights

While I enjoyed the writing in this book, a major deal-breaker that really ruined the plausibility of the story was the idea that a baseball team serious enough to offer "full ride" athleteic scholarships would allow someone like the character of Owen anywhere near the team. Leaving alone the fact that competitive sports teams are hostile to homosexuality and open-homosexuality is simply not tolerated, the character of Owen reads books in the dugout during games and seems to pay scant attention to the training--this simply would not be allowed in a competitive collegiate sports team. Because these scenes were prevalent througout the book, the implausibility kept rearing its head and shattering my enjoyment. How come the author didn't simply introduce Owen as the roommate of the shortstop and not bother trying to shoehorn him onto the team? I can't understand why the famous editor didn't flag this part of the novel before trumpeting it as the "next great american novel".

Jun. 28 2012 11:37 AM
Judy Kicinski from Yonkers

Who saw them leave the motel?

Jun. 28 2012 11:14 AM
Bernie from Bloomingburg

While the five main characters are exquisitely drawn, what amazed me about the novel is the richness of the peripheral characters. Owen's mom, Henry's father, Pella's husband, Chef Spirodocus and Aparicio Rodriguez--all seem worthy of a story of their own. In the ten year development of the novel, did any of these (or other) characters beg for a larger role? Who do you think has the richest story to tell?

Jun. 28 2012 09:50 AM
Donald from NY, NY

Other than President Affenlight and to a lesser degree Owen, the novel's characters are not particularly articulate, but they perceive insightfully, allowing author's observations that are often profound. Did these profound thoughts grow out of narrative and dialogue or did they give rise to the narrative and dialogue?

Jun. 26 2012 03:31 PM
Nancy Willick from Teaneck, NJ

I would like to know if you meant the surnames to be farcical, and if so, how. So many of them (starting with Westish) were compound syllables, vaguely reminiscent of the German, that didn't always feel quite believable.

Jun. 26 2012 02:50 PM
Tom Parrett from NYC

I'm wondering if Westish is based on or a composite of any existing Wisconsin liberal arts schools such as Beloit, Ripon, or Lawrence University, or is it entirely invented? (It's pity none of them are on Lake Michigan.)

Jun. 19 2012 03:51 PM
Charlotte from Port Washington, NY

On behalf of our Long Island based book club, I am asking Chad Harbach to talk about his process of writing his rich American story? What came first: baseball as the metaphor, the playful, but serious allusions to Melville who is often credited with having written the great American novel, boys trying to become men when what it is to be a man is so complicated. What theme is he thinking of playing with in his next book?

Since we all really enjoyed reading "The Art of Fielding" we hope there's more in the works from this author. We worried about all the characters who became our friends, our children and ourselves trying to come "home," and be at home with ourselves.

Even when it's clear that Henry, Schwartz and Pella were staying together for at least another year, it was OK because their individual and collective journeys were incomplete. Owen remains somewhat of a mystery...I really don't understand what attracted Owen, beautiful Owen, to an old man, albeit a scholar.

Thanks for a great read!

Jun. 18 2012 11:04 PM
Jean from NY, NY

I'm guessing that Aparicio Rodriguez is a combination of great shortstops Luis Aparicio, who played for the Orioles in the 60s, and Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod. Am I right?

Jun. 12 2012 05:46 PM
Sandy J from Newport Beach, CA

I'm a baseball fan and I really enjoyed your book. I had to google Aparicio Rodriguez to see if he was fictitious or not. I could have sworn I have heard Vin Scully talk about him. Is there a copy of "the Art of Fielding" (not the novel) somewhere? Did you create a complete one?

Also, as a product of LA Unified, I loved the "high school or prison" road trip game... I think from the inside, the answer is usually prison... (I think that was one of the themes in your book)

Thanks.

Jun. 07 2012 05:21 PM
Beth from Crown Heights, Bklyn

I happened to see you reading at Book Court in Brooklyn, and am so glad I did!

[spoilers herein]

I loved that Owen's sexuality, while driving a plot point, was not 'scandalizing', or even really the point of the whole thing. I love that your novel accepts homosexuality as a fact and builds the plot from there, as it should in real life.

Jun. 06 2012 11:09 PM
Ann

This book was so easy and captivating to read, but probably not to write. Was the story pre-mapped? Were the characters fully conceived from the start? Thank you for a wonderful Midwestern tale (I'm from Iowa).

Jun. 03 2012 02:39 PM
Adele Fishman from Ossining,NY

I read your absolutely wonderful book a few months ago, and just couldn't put it down! The emerging complex personalities, their problematic ways of coping, held me captive throughout. Although I'm hardly a baseball maven, it was never uninteresting to follow your unique writing flow into the minds of the players, especially the troubled "ace" pitcher! I don't'know if this was your first book??? Your writing style is hypnotic, utterly sensitive and so revealing of the aching inner selves of your main characters.!!

May. 23 2012 03:54 PM

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