The Art of Fielding: A Novel by Chad Harbach. I set out to really love this book. I love the writing style and the small liberal arts college setting. It reminded me of one of my favorite books, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. There's even a character named Owen. There's even someone who gets hit in the head with a baseball.
I loved and was really interested in the characters. I read it quickly. It was a pleasure to read. But the story was disappointing. It wasn't grand and big and life-affirming, like a I like. It was about failure and depression and self-doubt. But it still has some warmth and humor to it. This novel has been compared to Jonathan Franzen's stuff, which I hate reading. If Chad Harbach admires Franzen then that explains the bleakness. But I wish he didn't. Because this is almost the great and beautiful kind of book that I love. I think Harbach and Franzen think beautiful and uplifting is corny and old fashioned. Jonathan Franzen is dead inside but there's hope for Harbach. I don't have to read books with happy endings. But I like the overall message to be that love or hard work or goodness prevails. I just like to read about that.
It's a rated R book, just so you know. And it talks a lot about baseball, which Chad Harbach manages to make you care about. Overall, a good book. I was just disappointed because I started to think it might be a great book—one of my favorites. It's not.