- The best (fictional) baseball book ever published… for now. (Mark Harris’s Henry Wiggin books are also quite good.)
Some time ago, it was reported that Chad Harbach, one of the founders of n+1, had sold his first novel, The Art of Fielding, an introspective novel about the baseball team at a Wisconsin liberal arts college, but I didn’t write anything about it, because what would I have said? We like the seriousness and savvy of our Dumbo neighbors at n+1, and the bad smart-college baseball team seems to have a lot of potential as a subject, given the social dynamics, Americana, and varying strains of sadness, youth, literary bent, and manhood inevitably contained therein. Here’s This Book I Would Like to Read in Two Years, I would have said, more or less, had I posted about it, and, if I was being honest, I Really Wish I Had Written It, Or Something Like It.
It turns out, though, that Harbach and his agent sold the novel to Little, Brown for $650,000—and indeed left money on the table (how much more money could someone have possibly offered for a book about the existential dilemmas of the Ripon baseball team?) for the chance to work with Infinite Jest editor Michael Pietsch. Everyone really likes it, apparently, either for its David Foster Wallace-influenced chops or its sporty crossover potential. I suppose the money doesn’t change anything, only amplifies the extent to which I will read it, jealously.
Now seems an opportune time to link back to Harbach’s brief piece on the 2004 MLB playoffs, a consideration of baseball as both human-scaled and epic-historical narrative. Preview of coming attractions?