The Art of Fielding: At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.
Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.
As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others.Published in 2011; 513 pages.
Description from book jacket.
Chad Harbach grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. His father is an accountant, his mother ran the Small World Montessori School, for children 6 and under. He read prodigiously as a child, starting with Roald Dahl. In high school, sports — basketball, golf and baseball — temporarily trumped reading and writing as priorities.
“What fascinates me about baseball is that although it’s a team game, and a team becomes a kind of family, the players on the field are each very much alone,” he said. “Your teammates depend on you and support you, but at the moments that count they can’t bail you out.”
Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:
- Does male friendship always involve competition? In what ways? Can men ever be just friends? Are their relationships more competitive than those between women?
- After hitting Owen and losing his accuracy, Henry immerses himself in grueling physical activity: running the stadium steps, racing Starblind, doing endless chin-ups, swimming in the lake. Why does he do this? Is his body to blame for his throwing problems? Discuss the relationship between the body and the mind in The Art of Fielding.
More discussion questions are available from LitLovers
Chad Harbach, Author of The Art of Fielding on the Leonard Lopate Book Club
Watch Chad Harbach talk about writing, baseball, and baseball’s role in United States history.
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