P&P Reading Club: Pete Beatty on The Art of Fielding Chapters 18 – 33

he art of fielding by chad harbach Pete Beatty is a future boss at The Classical and P&P’s resident Jim Thome scholar.

Early-onset Steve Blass Disease. May-November blow jobs. Menial labor as an anti-neurotic therapeutic. Getting rejected from law school. Everyone at Westish College is bugging. At least some people are getting laid. After a hundred pages, we had a few ingredients for the conflict that would sustain narrative tension in The Art of Fielding–a prodigal daughter arriving at MKE, an inconvenient gay crush, Henry’s creeping jitters. A hundred pages later, everybody’s shit is falling apart. We might have seen Henry’s neurosis coming, but Schwartz’s crisis of confidence really deflated me. We are probably all suckers for a lower-middle-class character with a will to power, but Schwartz was really talking to me, as a bald pudgy guy who used to be a pudgy little league catcher. More worrisome to me than his money troubles or his law-school admissions woes (feel better, Schwartzy) is the dangerous relationship he’s fallen into with Pella–both seem cautious, preoccupied with other things–Pella with rebuilding her world after the probable end of her marriage, Schwartzy with repairing his bond with Henry. It seems like they’re going to hurt each other’s feelings, badly, and soon.

Meanwhile, across the quad, President Affenlight and Owen are just as awkward–Owen seems almost to be taking advantage of the older man, and our dude Guert just sort of seems like he really, really wants to be with Owen. This week’s reading was filled with some great passages–the best-of-20 sprints between Henry and Starblind were a brilliant piece, and Henry’s affectless brooding is pitch-perfect (not to mention deepening). My question though–is everyone on board with Affenlight’s motivations in romancing, or being romanced by, Owen Dunne? What is the older man seeking that he couldn’t have found in the willing arms of Owen’s mom or elsewhere? Does the Upper Midwest make you gay?

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