Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Report: The Art of Fielding

I thought there would be no way this would live up to the hype. I thought that since intellectuals liked it than it couldn't be an authentic sports book. Glad to be wrong on both counts, because this is a Matt Christopher book disguised as a Great American Novel. Harbach writes with the urgency of a sportswriter hustling to beat deadline, with intricate knowledge of baseball, as well as the feel of the locker room. This book is also as effective at plopping you back into the rhythms of college life with the skill that Harper Lee synthesizes childhood in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Art of Fielding lifts and breaks your heart every other page, makes you feel like you have known its characters all your life and hits you hard with their triumphs and tragedies. Its confrontation of Steve Blass disease is intimate and chilling, and its exploration of friendship and romance at varying levels shimmers with penetrating insight. This is one of those books that's so good that a movie would have so little chance of matching its magic that you hope one never gets made. And then you think of Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, and imagine how perfectly an Art of Fielding Movie would fit into the pantheon of great baseball films that you yearn for a film adaptation anyway. Like a Cubs or Red Sox fans who dreamed of an impossible World Series title that would never come, until it finally did.

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