There are times when you read a book and think ‘I wish I’d written that’. And there are times when you read a book and think ‘Damn, I could never have written that!’
It’s like watching Pablo Sandoval make an impossible diving stop and then throwing a bullet to first base without even standing up. I wish I could do that. I could never do that.
I don’t do book reviews and I don’t plan to turn my blog into a book blog (there are plenty of good people doing that already) but having just finished reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, I felt the need to express my admiration for it.
On the face of it, it’s a book about baseball and about the tortures that extremes of success and failure produce. That alone should make any self-respecting San Francisco Giants fan want to read it, after all, we know a bit too much about the failure side of things this year.
What makes The Art of Fielding stand out is that it isn’t really about baseball, it’s just that the characters play and care about baseball a lot. A sort of Moby Dick, where instead of a whale, it’s a baseball. Except it lacks the tedium of Melville’s epic. Harbach references Moby Dick quite a lot. It certainly helps a little if you’ve read it.
So what is it about? Young men, going to college, growing up, coming to terms with finding the limits of their teenage invincibility. In this book, just as in baseball, there are winners and losers. And just as in life, sometimes winning looks an awful lot like losing. That makes the book sound terminally worthy, which it isn’t, it’s delightful and funny too.
The Giants end the season with a winning record but no place in the playoffs and as fans we’ll wonder miserably what might have been without all those injuries. All the same, my baseball season ends on a happy note because I’ve found a new favourite book.