At the Sun-Gazette, staff members tend to read. A lot. So we thought we would share what we're reading and let you know how they fare.
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Reader: Mike Reuther, political-business writer.
What I read: "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach.
Synopsis: A star baseball player at a midwestern college is on a steady orbit to the Major Leagues when an errant throw takes him off course and indirectly changes the lives of teammates and others at the school.
Stats: Published by HarperCollins 2010.
What I thought: Baseball literature has included lone wolf heroes who emerge from nowhere to propel their ball clubs to new heights.
Foremost among these protagonists were perhaps Roy Hobbs of Bernard Malamud's "The Natural" and John Barr from "Sometimes You See It Coming."
In "The Art of Fielding" first-time novelist Harbach introduces another one of American literature's talented, lone wolf, enigmatic baseball characters.
Henry Skrimshander seems relegated to a life in small town South Dakota when he's "discovered" in an amateur baseball tournament by Mike Schwartz, a catcher from an opposing team.
And thus begins this novel about a young ballplayer, the teammate who helps mold him and other characters who come into their orbit at tiny Westish College in Wisconsin where Henry becomes the star of the ball team and perhaps the biggest Major League prospect in the country.
Henry is shy, introverted, skinny and altogether unimpressive, but a keen student of the game of baseball, who plays shortstop flawlessly, with a zeal and passion and flair few have seen.
Schwartz, by contrast, is the most formidable character in this book ripe with interesting personalities.
By contrast to Henry, he's tough, no-sense and altogether intent on making Henry into the best ballplayer he can be. He's tired of playing on losing teams, and as captain of the ball club, he badly wants to make it a winner.
Henry, we soon learn, is Schwartz's project. He gets the under-sized Henry to rise from bed early, work out regularly, lift weights.
In fact, he seems willing to put on hold his own post-college dreams at the expense of Henry.
Everything seems to go according to plan, with Henry seemingly on track to a professional baseball career, when a ball he hurls ends up striking in the head, Owen Dunne, his teammate and gay roommate.
This near-fatal throw into the dugout serves as the single moment that melds this story and brings together these handful of disparate characters.
As the team heads toward a championship, Henry's play suddenly unravels.
Enter Westish College President Guert Affenlight, who takes a sudden interest in the team's good fortunes and in Dunne, as he recovers from the near-fatal injury.
A lifelong bachelor, he's nearing retirement and just coming to grips with latent homosexuality while deciding his next life move.
There's also Pella, his married and long-estranged daughter, who decides to relocate from California, becomes a student at the college and falls into a romantic relationship with Schwartz.
Readers will keep turning the pages to find out what eventually happens to these people, and of course, Henry, whose life begins a steady downward spiral.
Along the way they'll find some delightful surprises along the way.
What I'm Reading Next: "Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kenney Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces."