Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Atlantic on "The Art of Fielding"

There has been so much hullabaloo about Chad Harbach's 2011 novel, "The Art of Fielding," that I felt a certain pressure to read it, or at least to check it out. I read several enthusiastic reviews, but something kept me from reading it. Perhaps it was the baseball theme; I like baseball fine, but am not enough of a fan to want to read novels about it. OK, I was assured by some of the reviews that the baseball wasn't the point; it was just a means. It was pointed out (very presumptuously, in my opinion!) that "Moby Dick" wasn't really about whaling. I still hesitated. Then the May 2012 issue of The Atlantic arrived in my mailbox, with its B. R. Myers-authored takedown of the novel in a review titled "A Swing and a Miss," with the subtitle "Why the Latest Hyped-Up Work of Staggering Genius Fizzles" (note the Dave Eggers reference). Myers decries the way (he believes) many fiction readers "succumb to the loudest promotional campaign every year only because they recognize the recurring need for an 'it' novel, something everyone can agree to read at about the same time." Sure enough, after strong reviews and a "puff piece" (Myers' words) from Vanity Fair, the novel climbed the bestseller lists. Myers is acerbic about "one-novel-a-year" readers, and about those who state that "you may not dismiss a highly praised novel as unworthy of notice until you have finished it." Thank you, Mr. Myers. Although perhaps it sounds philistine, I agree with Myers that time is too short to read everything, and one CAN get a sense of whether a novel is good, and in particular about whether one might like it, without actually reading it. Since Myers is writing a review, he does read "The Art of Fielding," and has some mild praise for it, including "it's not terrible." The author is talented, some of the paragraphs are well-paced, and there is some "brilliant imagery." Myers' ultimate opinion: The novel is "as light and insubstantial as a 512-page [!] book can be. It's not so much what happens or doesn't as the elfin tone in which everything is narrated: baseball, aging, lust, death, even an actual corpse -- all get the same twinkly treatment." Thank you again, Mr. Myers; now I have some support for my decision not to read "The Art of Fielding."


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    1. I don't generally delete/censor comments; I deleted this one, my own, because I accidentally added it after the wrong post.


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