Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 4th, 2012

Just Reviewed Harbach’s “The Art of Fielding” at SBR

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Folks, if you love baseball and you enjoy literary novels, you’ll enjoy Chad Harbach’s THE ART OF FIELDING.  In many senses, this is a very fine debut novel with good characterization (with one glaring exception), a story that makes sense, and even a mythic struggle between what you know about yourself and what you think you know — or perhaps better explained as, “Who are you, really, when the cameras are off?”

This is the problem shortstop Henry Skrimshander has.  He plays for Westish University (a totally fictional place set in Wisconsin), a Division III school, and is such a great shortstop that he’s never made an error.  (He even calls his glove “Zero.”)  And he bases his entire personality on that fact, to the point that when he finally does commit an error, his world falls apart.

Mind you, as I reviewed the entire book, I had to point out the one, big weakness of it, and that’s the relationship between Henry’s teammate Mike Schwartz, a catcher on his last legs, and the University President’s daughter, Pella Affenlight.  Pella is drawn as a really hot-looking woman, and Schwartz, who otherwise is a go-getter of the first water, seems to have no communication skills or self-esteem when it comes to her.  And Pella’s characterization in this area is extremely shallow; she does what she likes, doesn’t wonder much about why she does anything, and of course at the end, Schwartz takes her back for reasons only he knows, because the book is mute.

As I said in my review over at Shiny Book Review (SBR), hotness is not enough for any man to do this in a long-term relationship, not if he wants it to work. (And if this Pella really is that hot, why isn’t she a supermodel already?)  Even seeing it as Schwartz’s “tragic flaw,” it doesn’t work, especially as the two of them pairing off is supposed to show great depth and maturity on Pella’s part!

So if Pella weren’t in this book at all, this book would’ve been a solid A.  As it stands, because I love romance and know what works and what doesn’t, I had to give it a B even though I loved the book otherwise.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to check out my review, which is here:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/chad-harbachs-the-art-of-fielding-strong-baseball-writing/

Then, go read the book, enjoy the baseball, and give Pella a wide berth.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm

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