In Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, the depiction of a certain aspect of college, that nagging fear that you cannot possibly exist in a world outside the small fishbowl of your university, is beautifully rendered. The characters in this book absolutely cannot exist without their alma mater. The fear of graduating, and losing their familiar world, is crippling. Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz and Guert Affenlight are like my worst fears come to life: they are what happens if you don’t force yourself to move on after university.
This is the story of Henry Skrimshander, whom Mike Schwartz discovers and recruits to play baseball at Westish College, and his friends and associates. The baseball is a powerful force throughout the book. The book is a stream of descriptions of the rhythm of the game, the reliance on your teammates, and the excruciating struggle to push your body beyond it’s limits. The characters melt downs are reflected in their bodies; and the author has a scientific, but kind of poetic way, of describing the body.