Sunday, February 26, 2012
This weekend, I did—walked away from my own work, sat down as snow showers were followed by rain then sun, and read. I liked this story, liked the way that it was told. I liked the actual paper the book was printed on—smooth paper for a smooth story. True, this story about a college shortstop, a college president, a college catcher, a girl who arrives late to college, and a college star (you get the point) could be preposterous at turns, but it never lost its seamless sound. That's because Chad Harbach writes careful and yet still light-filled sentences that honor not just story, but idea.
I dog-earred many pages. I'm going to quote, below, from the paragraph that most moved me, that captured the mood of my present days, my internal monologue. The passage comes late in the book, but I don't think it's a spoiler. It is, instead, an elegant representation of how a talented novelist can be writing a story, complete unto itself, and at the same time be talking directly to the reader who holds the book in her hand. Harbach in this passage is writing about a kid named Schwartz. But he's doing more than that. He's reaching farther.
A final word: I went onto Amazon to see what other readers had thought after reading Fielding. I should not have done that. The unkind comments claiming this book to be pedestrian, for example, or cardboard, or cliche, left me shuddering and steeped inside this question: How is ridicule acceptable, when healthy criticism will do?
A passage that moved me, from The Art of Fielding:
He hadn't pushed through that one last barrier, his fear of succeeding, beyond which the world lay totally open to him. Schwartz would never live in a world so open. His would always be occluded by the fact that his understanding and ambition outstripped his talent. He'd never be as good as he wanted to be, not at baseball, not at football, not at reading Greek or taking the LSAT. And beyond all that he'd never be as good as he wanted to be. He'd never found anything inside himself that was really good and pure, that wasn't double-edged, that couldn't just as easily become its opposite.