Can't say I love baseball. A few times I tried to watch it (and comprehend all the excitement and fuss about it) but I failed and gave it up. It did not catch my attention, and instead of getting my blood up and igniting passion in me, it lulled me to boredom.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a 605 pages long novel (Fourth Estate, London, 2012) about baseball star Henry Skrimshander at Westish College and fates of people connected to him, is anything but that. It is a thoroughbred, full-blooded, deeply moving, beautifully written tale about dreams, hopes, ambition, forbidden love, friendship, and many more.
Chad Harbach, an American writer and an editor at n+1 New York-based literary magazine, worked on his baseball debut novel for nine years. But as if that time had no effect on it, for each year of its creating only added to its flavor and quality. The Art of Fielding is a brilliant first novel you will not want to put down. Its characters are memorable, alive, realistic, the writing is flawless and tender, the novel itself passionate, gripping and all-consuming. It is a vivid reminder of more innocent times and ages we all sometimes crave for; melancholic and sentimental it touches our hearts and minds and squeezes the juices of humanity out of us.
If you had doubts whether I liked it or not, have no doubts any more. The Art of Fielding I loved from the beginning to the end, with every hope arisen and dream broken, with every single success achieved and love fulfilled, all the way to its sad and re-conciliatory end.
The Art of Fielding is the art of writing. We should all take it in our hands, read it with open minds and big hearts and pay respect to it. If this was the only novel Chad Harbach ever wrote (I hope not), it is the novel enough to find a place for him in the annals of American literary fiction.
Advice for the filmmakers: kindly pay attention to it!