I heard about “The Art of Fielding” for many years. Chad Harbach’s 2011 novel is a literary take on baseball, one that was pretty much unanimously critically acclaimed. Everyone I know who read it loved it, and awhile back I borrowed a copy.
I’m a pretty slow reader, so the book sat on my nightstand for quite a few months, and getting through the first hundred pages took awhile. But then I really got into the book and read probably 80 percent of it in the last two weeks. And it’s really good- the hype was dead-on.
The novel, if you haven’t read it, tells the story of Henry Skrimshander, a phenom shortstop on the baseball team of a small college in Wisconsin. He’s a defensive whiz until suddenly losing the ability to throw to first, and the novel both traces his journey as a player, as well as the relationships among Henry, a couple of his teammates, the college president, and the president’s daughter.
Reading the book, I got to thinking- why isn’t this a movie? It’s about baseball, after all, and baseball movies are big these days- even counterintuitive, nontraditional ones. “Moneyball” was mostly about statistics and business strategy and had a general manager as its hero- and that became a pretty successful, critically acclaimed movie.
Sure, “The Art of Fielding” has a plot that may not be so cinematic, and not that much game action. There’s also a pretty major gay subplot, although Hollywood, and the general public at large, isn’t nearly as squeamish about that sort of thing as it was in the past.
There was talk, around the time of the book’s publication, of HBO turning it into a series, but that appears to have died on the vine.
So get on it, Hollywood. I can only dream about various casting scenarios. There’s something about the character of Pella Affenlight that just screams “Anna Kendrick.”