2012 Literary Award

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Chad Harbach
The Art of Fielding

 

Chad Harbach grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. He graduated from Harvard University and received an MFA from the University of Virginia. In 2004, Harbach and four other writers launched the literary journal n+1. Harbach is both an editor and writer for the journal, contributing essays on environmentalism, David Foster Wallace and the Boston Red Sox.

Harbach worked on The Art of Fielding for nine years. In March 2010, he told Bloomberg News, “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. Your teammates depend on you and support you, but at the moments that count they can’t bail you out.”

 

After a heated auction ($665,000), the book was acquired in the spring of 2010 by Little, Brown & Co. A Vanity Fair e-book describing the writing and publication of the novel was later released.

 

About the Book

In his debut novel, The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach examines the lives of 5 people and the ways in which their paths intersect at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin. Henry Skrimshander is recruited to play by sophomore Mike Schwartz. Through Schwartz’s intervention, Henry is admitted late and finds housing with Owen, another star on the team. Schwartz and Owen take Henry under their wing to help him adjust to the world of academia.

Guert Affenlight, the college president, finds himself falling helplessly in love after what seems a lifetime alone as a single parent to his daughter Pella. Pella, meanwhile, shows up at Westish to try to figure out her own future. When Henry commits an unlikely error during a game, it seems the lives of all of these characters begin to spin out of control.

Not really about baseball, this story is more about perfection and failure, heartbreak and doubt, and how we find meaning in our lives. These characters will stay with the reader long after the last page.

 

From the publisher:

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.