P&P Reading Club: Megan Wells on The Art of Fielding Chapters 18 – 33

he art of fielding by chad harbachFind more of Megan Wells at Around the Horn from Aerys Sports.


Quite a bit has happened since our last check-in on this literary odyssey. Destruction and creation, mostly – relationships forming between O and Affenlight, Schwartzy and Pella. Henry’s apparent total loss of self-identity. During the first week, I felt like a lot of these characters were empty or had yet to be realized in any sort of relatable way. This week, there has been an almost embarrassing abundance of real, sympathetic detail in the interactions with even minor characters.

I found Pella’s interaction with Chef Spirodocus surprisingly engaging. The Chef doesn’t seem to fit in a neat box, but to have a great deal of unexpressed complexity. The sadness of his potato-spooning, the unheralded sacrifice that went into the grocery bag of food, the apparent depth with which he imbued tiny actions – they paralleled Pella’s compulsive drive to wash dishes; paralleled Affenlight’s obsession over the minutiae of his appearance in advance of Owen’s visit; paralleled Henry’s panicked overthinking of each in-game throw to first.

Most of these are day-to-day thoughts and mental states to which I can relate all too well. The new perspective, for me, comes from seeing this mundane side of a baseball field. As a fan – only ever an occasional right-fielder for a women’s baseball league in Chicago – I’ve never really approached the performance of baseball with enough familiarity to have the tiny, obsessive, weighty thoughts that the Westish players do. The moment that stood out, for me, was Schwartzy taking the game – and Henry, really – into his own hands while facing Opentoe. He approached the first-base umpire with all the irritation of someone having a bad day at work, and his temper boiled over in exactly the same way. Familiar sensation, unexpected context.

My question to you, then, is this: has the book’s detail reframed anything familiar for you, or given you a new perspective on something mundane?

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