Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Fielding - a disappointing read

Earlier this year, I read an interesting article in Vanity Fair entitled "How A Book Is Born" which recounted the story of how author Chad Harbach toiled on writing his manuscript for a decade, finally got it in front of book agents and publishing houses and ultimately published to wide acclaim (with one of the most striking cover designs of the year, see above). It was an interesting article and piqued my interest in the novel itself, which was getting massive buzz.

Having just finished the novel, I'm sad to say it was a mediocre experience. A compelling premise let down by a bloated delivery, surprisingly shallow characters and tedious plot. The original Vanity Fair article is a far more intriguing read. And obviously contributed hugely to the buzz! It's unavailable online, but you can purchase it here. A little more info on the article here:

How a Book Is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding by Keith Gessen.

The highly anticipated novel The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, has just been published. But what is the riveting story behind the story—and what does it take to make a bestseller these days? As author and n+1 co-founder Keith Gessen reveals in this 17,000-word e-book (expanded from the article appearing in the October issue of Vanity Fair), the passage from MFA classroom to national book tour is its own treacherous, absorbing—and wildly unpredictable—adventure. Harbach, Gessen’s friend and colleague, was a struggling writer who toiled relentlessly for ten years on The Art of Fielding, before it eventually hauled in a $650,000 advance. At each step of the way several vivid characters fought tooth and nail to ensure the book’s survival, including Chris Parris-Lamb, Harbach’s passionate young agent; Michael Pietsch, a renowned editor at the publishing house Little, Brown; and Keith Hayes, the book’s tireless designer. In this e-book of sweeping scope and fascinating, behind-the-scenes detail, Gessen pulls back the curtain on the insular, fiercely political, and cutthroat literary world of Manhattan—a place where the “Big Six” publishing houses, owned by multinational conglomerates, reign supreme, while smaller houses are left to fend for themselves. Gessen exposes the modern-day book business for what it is: a largely uncertain enterprise—but rife with courageous, enthusiastic individuals—struggling to redefine itself in the face of its own digital revolution.

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