18 July 2012

The Art of Fielding

You guys, I read a book about baseball - and I actually liked it. But the thing is, this book wasn't so much a book about baseball as it was a book about college, drama, and sex - which added just the right amount of spice to the rather -ahem- boring sport we like to refer to as the great American past time. While I will admit that I tended to skim over the parts of the book that explicitly described play-by-plays of baseball games, I will acknowledge that utilizing the sport of college baseball as a framework for storytelling was one of the unifying factors of this book. Baseball is what cemented the characters together, as well as a mutual love for the institution of a tiny Mid-Western college campus. I couldn't imagine the story without baseball, like the characters in the story couldn't imagine a life without Westish College.

As a recent graduate from a tiny Mid-Western college myself, a piece of my heart will always remain in Galesburg, Illinois roaming the worn halls of Old Main, baiting rivalries with Monmouth College, pledging sisters in the Kappa House, walking the weathered brick paths through campus. Every passing day away from Knox a small part of me yearns to return, sometimes wondering if those really were the best years of my young life. I, like Mike Schwartz and President Affenlight, can't picture myself without Knox College. Though I was reluctant to leave upon graduating, I knew that in the grand scheme of things, my time at Knox might have ended geographically, but that I would always carry that great school on the prairie with me, wherever I went.

Author Chad Harbach expertly creates the bubble-like space so reminiscent of my own experience at Knox, it was hard for me to put the book down. A tiny campus yields itself to a special dynamic in which it is possible for college presidents and professors to have intimate relationships with their students. In which coaches look on to their athletes as peers and colleagues. Where no matter your interest or background, whatever you are truly passionate about becomes the determining factor in the kind of person you become while living, working, and growing on campus.

Nearly every major character in this book goes through some sort of a nervous breakdown, and seeing how they base their sense of self and stability off of the very existence of such a magical place as Westish College, it comes as no surprise to me that my own admiration for my alma mater strengthened my love of this book as well as my love of my school. While we might not always know where our homes are, it's incredibly reaffirming to know that we always have a place to call our own - whether it's fictional or real, it will always be there. For me, that place is Knox College. For Henry, Mike, Pella, Owen, and Guert, it was Westish. 

And on that note, I leave you with one of my all-time favorite Beach Boys songs. BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL!

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