P&P Reading Club: Dayn Perry on The Art of Fielding Chapters 1 -17

he art of fielding by chad harbachDayn Perry is a senior writer at NotGraphs and skilled Reggie Jackson biographer.

This runs long, but I’ll do better at reining it in going forward …

“The last time I forced myself to slog through a work of fiction that did not sufficiently move me was during my undergraduate years, which were so long ago as to devastate. Anyhow, I was assigned to read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain over my December break. The work in question, it turned out, featured far too much time in a tuberculosis sanatorium, far too many lengthy disquisitions by something called “Herr Settembrini,” and far too much anguish on my part. I sweat, I wept silently, I forwent the viewing of important bowl games. And for what? A sense of completeness and academic calm that could’ve been mine after mere and stolen moments with that bumble-beed miracle known as “Cliffs Notes.”

After this experience, I took a monastic vow never to complete a work of fiction that, according to my own dubious and capricious standards, did not merit completion. Since then, I’ve been accordingly preoccupied with the exact moment at which a novel crosses the threshold that separates, for me, Magic Mountain-ness from “A Book I am Willing to and Perhaps Delighted to Finish”-ness.

In the curious case of The Art of Fielding, this moment occurred for me, your current interlocutor, probably when I first cracked the spine. (Fair enough: I’m reading it on the iPad, so I cracked no literal spines. But you know what I’m saying. Don’t you?) Specifically and honestly, though, I was taken at the closing words of Chapter 15, when Affenlight “truly was a fool,” and then, seconds later, “was renewed.” There was something ineffably real and endearing about the set-up and sequence. I knew what I already suspected, which is that I was in.

So, my question: At what moment did you determine, from on high, that The Art of Fielding had secured and earned your readerly attentions for good and all?

Also, Skrimshander = Scrimshaw!”

2 Responses to “P&P Reading Club: Dayn Perry on The Art of Fielding Chapters 1 -17”

  • The book secured my attentions in chapter 2, with the introduction of Aparicio Rodriguez.

    The problem has been RETAINING my attentions. I’m largely prejudiced against books in which characters have “emotional problems” and in which they make “poor life decisions.”

    Unfortunately, after Skrimshander hits Owen in the head, both of those things make appearances. “Argh” is my main thought on that.

  • I was taken in by the very deliberate joke concerning the saucy vocalizations coming from the weight room. It was something of a corny late night talk show set up, but it lent the book a simple, bawdy sense of humor that you don’t always expect from books that has been so widely praised, and I was in.

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