The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Art of Fielding begins with a late summer baseball tournament in Peoria. Mike Schwartz and his Chicago Legion team have just beaten a South Dakota team in the semifinals. As Mike is gathering his catcher’s gear, the puny shortstop from the South Dakota team returns to the field to take extra grounders from his coach. Mike watches the exercise and is stunned at the brilliance and natural grace of the shortstop.
|The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach begins with a late summer baseball tournament in Peoria. Mike Schwartz and his Chicago Legion team have just beaten a South Dakota team in the semifinals. As Mike is gathering his catcher’s gear, the puny shortstop from the South Dakota team returns to the field to take extra grounders from his coach. Mike watches the exercise and is stunned at the brilliance and natural grace of the shortstop, Henry Skrimshander. When Mike learns the seventeen year old has no plans to play college ball, he moves fast to ensure that Henry joins him as a Westish College Harpooner.
This novel is filled with endearing characters, complex relationships, male bonding, and baseball. Don’t be turned off by the baseball. Our book club is all women and we thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
Book Club Ideas
Bring out the baseball memorabilia for this book club party!
Lisa gave me a great idea for a baseball centerpiece. It was so easy to put together using a tall cylindrical glass vase, a few baseballs, a red white and blue plate and some roasted peanuts. Isn’t it cute?
My father-in-law played baseball for Texas A&M (Whoop!) in the early 50′s, so I put out some his memorabilia from the 1951 College World Series! (He’s in the 2nd row, third from the right.)
I also made some baseball placemats. I downloaded a high resolution baseball image from the internet. I printed copies of the photo and covered the front and back of the photo with self-laminating sheets.
Chad Harbach has cited Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as a major influence on The Art of Fielding. In fact, one of the main characters in The Art of Fielding is a Melville scholar, and, if you are familiar with Moby Dick, you won’t fail to notice that same single-minded obsessive, all-consuming drive shared by characters in both works.
Nicholas Dawidoff (author of The Catcher Was A Spy and editor of Baseball: A Literary Anthology) compares Moby Dick and The Art of Fielding in more broader terms:
“Here is that rarest of pleasures, a baseball novel by someone who really knows baseball. The beautiful part is that The Art of Fielding is mere baseball fiction the way Moby Dick is just a fish story.”
Baseball Anthems will get you and your guests in the spirit. This album includes the most popular ball park music of the past century. It’s great fun.
Book Club Menu
Put fun baseball park foods on your book club menu!
An All-American baseball themed party should include some Homemade Cracker Jack!
Katy’s daughter made this baseball cake for our book club party. It was delicious, but I’m not quite sure how she assembled the cake (it looks a little tricky). You can get the same effect by using this Wilton Sports Ball Pan Set. Bake any flavor cake, top with white frosting, and create the baseball stitching using Wilton Red Icing Tube and icing tips.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 4.04 stars (10,033 ratings)|
|Amazon: 3.4 stars (343 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 4.07 stars (231 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.5 stars I highly recommend this novel, whether you are a baseball fan or not. I was moved by the characters’ struggles and at times painfully wincing at Henry’s failures.|
- Discuss Pella’s relationship with Guert. What did you make of Pella’s Moby Dick tattoo?
- What happened to Henry’s game? Why did he so completely fall apart?
- Discuss Mike’s role as hero, leader, and moral center of the novel. How does Mike respond when faced with his own failure? Why do you feel Mike only applied to the nation’s top law schools?
- Mike, Henry, Pella, Guert, and Owen are all endearing characters. Which one did you most closely relate to or like? Why?
- Owen remains much a mystery since we never hear his point of view. Why do you think Harbach does this? Were you able to fully connect with or understand Owen?
- Discuss Guert and the discoveries he made about himself as a late middle aged man. Did you have a problem, considering his profession, with the choices he made and acted on? Why or why not?
Purchase The Art of Fielding at your favorite bookseller
|Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and attended Harvard and the University of Virginia. He has worked as a copywriter and is cofounder and coeditor of the literary magazine n+1.|
Recommended Baseball Reading
Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…
I’m not a diehard baseball fan (I don’t follow the pros), but I loved watching my son (#15) play the game from Little League through high school. Great memories!
I would also like to mention that I enjoyed #26 and #59 from the fictional Aparicio Rodriguez’s The Art of Fielding:
26. The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.
59. To field a groundball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self which is the source of all suffering and poor defense
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for The Art of Fielding? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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