Chad Harbach, an editor at n+1, has sold his debut novel to Michael Pietsch at Little, Brown. It’s called The Art of Fielding, and it’s about baseball.
Agent Chris Parris-Lamb of the Gernert Company shepherded Harbach’s book through what publishing industry sources say was “an old-fashioned auction”–stretching from Wednesday to Friday and involving eight imprints, seven bidders, and a final price in the mid-six-figures.
Harbach is the third n+1 editor to prove his sad young literary manhood with a novel. Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision came out in 2005, and Keith Gessen’s All the Sad Young Literary Men in 2008.
Harbach’s book centers on a Wisconsin liberal arts college and the lives that intersect around its baseball team. There’s a gifted shortstop with a psychological block, a college president in an unlikely relationship, and the president’s daughter, fresh from a failed marriage. It’s about baseball and so much more, insists everyone who’s seen the book.
It would seem so: the excitement extended even to scouts for foreign publishers, who were evidently undaunted by the prospect of getting Europeans to read a baseball book. But hey: if Netherland can make Americans care about cricket, why not?