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!”