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Case 1:17-cv-06984-AKH Document 1 Filed 09/14/17 Page 1 of 43


Plaintiff, :
v. : ______ Civ. _______
: Jury Trial Demanded
Defendant. :


Plaintiff Charles C. Green (Green), as and for his Complaint against Defendant Chad

D. Harbach (Harbach), by and through the undersigned counsel, alleges as follows upon

personal knowledge or (where indicated) information and belief:

Nature of Action

1. It is a bedrock principle of American law that an author of a work may reap the

fruits of his or her intellectual creativity. U.S Copyright Office, Circular 1a, available at

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1a.html. Green, the author of Buckys 9th (Buckys), has

been denied the fruits of his copyrighted creative work including the ability to publish

Buckys by the wrongful acts of Harbach, the author of The Art of Fielding (TAOF).1

2. As alleged in more detail below, a desperate and economically strapped Harbach

misappropriated the content that was created by Green and included in Buckys and used it

The term Buckys, as used herein, will refer to the version that was registered with the U.S.
Copyright Office and, as alleged below, was submitted to publishers in the 2006/2007 timeframe. This
version will be provided to Harbach, and also will be filed with the Court, under appropriate
confidentiality protections in order to safeguard Greens rights.
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(without Greens consent) to transform the earlier, unsuccessful drafts of his baseball novel,

TAOF, into a highly acclaimed work.2 The two baseball novels bear a substantial similarity that

could occur only as a result of Harbachs access to a version (or versions) of Buckys and his

large-scale misappropriation of Greens creative efforts. There is a proliferation of shared

material in the two books, in particular in their third acts, which proceed in lockstep to their

uncannily-similar climaxes and denouements. Thus, it is in the critical and defining aspects of

the two works the idiosyncratic resolution of the heros journey and the dead-quarterback plot

(which plays through the denouement) that the most striking similarities occur. Taken in the

context of common premises, setting and plot lines (the combination of which is especially rare

in a baseball story), the uncanny parallelism between the third acts of the books compels the

conclusion that Harbach exploited the content of Buckys as a means of resuscitating his own

foundering, perennial work-in-progress.

3. Beginning in the mid-1990s, screenplay versions of Buckys were widely

distributed to companies and individuals in the entertainment business. In the early 2000s,

earlier versions of Buckys were distributed to prominent literary agencies, chiefly in New York

City. From 2005 through 2008, further iterations of Buckys were also submitted to agents and,

subsequently, publishers. As asserted in the media coverage referenced below, Harbach was

well connected in literary circles and, upon information and belief, he gained access to a version

or versions of Buckys. Harbachs next iteration of TAOF, which was a transformed draft based

on Greens work, achieved immediate success.

As just one example of the numerous accolades for TAOF since 2011, see https://www.si.com/extra-
mustard/2013/07/19/five-baseball-books-you-owe-it-to-yourself-to-read-this-summer (describing it as possibly
one of the best baseball novels ever).

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4. Harbachs actions violated the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., entitling

Green to damages, injunctive relief and costs and reasonable attorneys fees pursuant to 17

U.S.C. 501, 502, 504 and 505.

The Parties

5. Green is a citizen of the State of Texas and he resides in Dallas, Texas. Green is

the author of Buckys, which was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2012. (A true and

correct copy of the registration is attached hereto as Exhibit A.) The registration notes that

Buckys was a completed work as of 2007, and it was given Copyright Registration Number TXu


6. Upon information and belief, Harbach is currently a citizen of the Commonwealth

of Virginia, residing in Charlottesville, Virginia. Upon information and belief, Harbach also

maintained a residence in Brooklyn, New York during the relevant time period and he currently

transacts business in New York through his participation in the New York-based literary journal

n+1 and through his ongoing relationships with his publishers and his literary agency. Harbach

is the author of TAOF, which was first published in 2011.

Jurisdiction and Venue

7. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331 and

1338(a), the latter of which provides that the district courts shall have original jurisdiction over

copyright actions under a federal statute.

8. Harbach is subject to personal jurisdiction pursuant to Section 301 of the New

York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) based upon his presence in New York and/or his

systematic and continuous business activity here. The Court may also exercise personal

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jurisdiction over Harbach pursuant to CPLR 302(a). The claims in this Complaint arise out of

Harbachs transaction of business in the state and/or commission of tortious acts in the state.

9. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C 1400(a). Upon information and belief,

Harbach may be found in this District for purposes of 28 U.S.C 1400(a) in light of his

commercial activities in New York, New York and other extensive contacts with the forum.

Factual Background

I. The History of Buckys

10. Buckys was inspired by Greens experiences as a Division III baseball player at

Swarthmore College in the mid-1980s. Starting in or around 1994, Green developed a

screenplay (later entitled Buckys 9th) whose main character is a college baseball player

named Bucky. Thereafter, Green adapted the screenplay into a novel that is the precursor to


11. From 1994 to 2004, Green produced multiple iterations of the Buckys precursor

and the related screenplay. Those documents were circulated widely among agents, publishers,

production companies, and studios. Green estimates that variants of these works were seen by in

excess of one hundred people in the publishing and entertainment industries.

12. Greens evidence regarding the existence of Buckys and earlier completed

versions, which contain the two books overlapping material, includes numerous drafts in digital

format with metadata showing file creation dates from January 2002 through 2007 (and

subsequent drafts and dates as well). Additionally, dozens of time-stamped emails extending

back to 2004-2005 contain attachments of completed drafts and hundreds of emails contain

partial drafts. These emails were sent to and received from Green, his editor (Jess Taylor), his

entertainment attorney (Marc H. Glick (Glick)), and his agent (Matthew Guma). The earliest

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extant digital draft of Greens book was created on January 11, 2002 and last modified on

January 23, 2002. (A true and correct copy of the metadata for that version is attached hereto as

Exhibit B.)

13. From 2005 through 2008, Glick submitted multiple versions of Buckys to a

number of literary agents, including: Janklow & Nesbit Associates; Writers House LCC;

Darhansoff, Verrill, Feldman Literary Agents; Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc.;

Creative Artists Agency; The Steinberg Agency, Inc.; and The Guma Agency (Guma). Guma

took on Green and submitted the manuscript in 2006 to several publishers and then broadly to

numerous publishers (in the version in which copyright is registered) over the course of 2006 and

2007, but did not elicit interest in acquiring the work for publication.

14. Since the publication of TAOF in 2011, Green has been blocked in pursuing the

publication of Buckys given the volume of content shared by these two baseball books and,

further, given the substantial similarity of their critical elements elements that normally make

books stand as independent works, not make them appear bizarrely alike.

II. The Reported and Publicized History of TAOF

15. TAOF was the subject of an illuminating October 2011 Vanity Fair article by

Harbachs friend Keith Gessen, entitled How a Book Is Born: The Making of The Art of

Fielding (the Article). (A true and correct copy of the Article is attached hereto as Exhibit

C.) Gessen subsequently expanded and published the article as a 20,000-word e-book. Gessen

provides some of the chronology of the evolution of TAOF and, in interviews, Harbach has

confirmed aspects of the story. 3

Background information on Mr. Gessen is available at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Gessen.
Upon information and belief, Mr. Gessen is currently an assistant professor of journalism at the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism and, among other things, he was the regular book critic for New
York Magazine from 2004 to 2005.

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16. Upon information and belief, Harbach began working on a baseball-themed novel

in the period 2000 to 2004. In or around early to mid-2006, Gessen read a full-length manuscript

of Harbachs novel. Gessen wrote that: It was good, but it struck me as a little light. I didnt

say it at the time, but it felt a little like a Disney film. (The Bad News Bears go to liberal-arts

college.) I was surprised that my friend had spent five years working on something so

insubstantial. Gessen noted that, by around 2007 or 2008, Harbach was desperate: Chad no

longer had a job and I was beginning to worry. I knew he was going back and re-writing early

sections of his book. And Chad had run out of money. For years he had been ignoring his

student loans, and in our Brooklyn apartment we could no longer answer our landline, because

the collection agencies now called so often. Without having seen the book, I began to urge him

to just send it out to agents and see what happened. The truth is I wasnt confident anyone would

want it; I thought Chad should move on to his next novel, or something else entirely.

17. Gessens description of Harbachs life of penury at this time is echoed by an April

21, 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times: A long-suffering, often-starving MFA graduate,

Harbach spent much of his 20s and 30s working temp jobs so he could write a novel, sometimes

with barely $100 in his bank account. (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/21/entertainment/la-


18. In or around 2009, Gessen read a new version of Harbachs novel. Gessen

described the work as transformed, writing in the Article that:

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The relationships had taken on a depth that they hadnt previously

had; the story of the throw and its aftermath had acquired a kind of
resonance that would have been hard to anticipate in the early
versions. This was no longer a Disney movie. There was a
whole world here, and it was very moving, and very generous, and

19. In the Article, Gessen frankly admits to being mystified by the novels evolution

and emergence from its previous ugly duckling status. Gessen ambiguously wrote that [i]t was

as if time itself had written this book and, although time had written the book, Chad had

become its conduit. Gessen concluded with a telling question that he was unable to answer:

How had he done this? I dont know: Id sat next in the next room or at the next table, Id been

there the whole time, and I still dont know.

20. Buckys provides the answer for Gessens trenchant queries on the mystery of

how Harbach had done it. As alleged below, it is evident that Harbach, without Greens

knowledge or consent, (1) gained access to a version of Buckys; and (2) used Buckys as a magic

wand, by stripping Greens proprietary material out of Buckys and dressing up TAOF with it.

21. Upon information and belief, Harbach gained access to a version of Buckys prior

to the transformation of TAOF. Indeed, Gessen notes throughout the Article that Harbach and

his associates had a wealth of contacts in the literary world during the relevant time period. As

an example of this vast and immediate network, one of Harbachs co-editors at n+1worked

(during the relevant time) as a fiction editor at one of the publishers to which Buckys had been

pitched, and submitted by Guma for consideration, in the 2006-2008 period.

III. Overlap between Buckys and TAOF

22. There are extensive and substantial similarities between Buckys and TAOF

in terms of their premise and setting, plot/structure, content, idiosyncratic authorial choice, and

the near-exact timing of events (including stand-alone details, scene sequencing and recurrent

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themes). Those similarities, set forth in further detail in the Appendix to the Complaint, are

summarized act by act below.

A. Act I: Premise and Setting

23. Both Buckys and TAOF operate in the same sub-genre: a baseball story. They

also share certain conventions that are common to sports narratives, such as the tale of a

perennial and disadvantaged underdog which defeats its long-superior rivals and is led by a

talented, but troubled, prodigy. (See Appendix, 1-3.) However, the two novels have the same

unconventional premise and setting: a small, obscure and financially struggling (yet

academically proud) liberal arts school whose athletic teams compete in the lowest collegiate

ranks, Division III, and thus do not have the benefit of athletic scholarships. (Id., 2.) Extensive

research has not turned up any other published or produced baseball story where the same type of

coming-of-age/underdog/baseball plot has a similar setting.

24. Even if the shared premise and setting were mere coincidence, a reader would

expect independent works to diverge along the way. Here, by contrast, the two novels converge

and share a substantial amount of content, which frequently occurs in virtually the same places

and in the same sequences in both books.

B. Act II: Plot and Structure

25. Each work is anchored by four core narratives: (1) the Baseball Prodigy-Comes-

of-Age-Plot; (2) the Recruiter-Mentor Plot; (3) the Illicit-Romance Plot; and (4) the

Intergenerational Plot. (See id., 3-6.) Individually, these plots may be conventional; however,

the appearance of all four plots in both baseball books and, critically, the same way they are

developed provides powerful evidence of substantial similarity between Buckys and TAOF.

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(1) Baseball Prodigy-Comes-of-Age Plot

26. The two novels have a main character (the Prodigy) whose background and

baseball career, reception at college, downfall, and redemption are uncannily similar. (See id., 3-

4.) In both books, the Prodigy joins an astonishingly-similar eccentric group of teammates:

Players read books on the bench during game action (id., Addendum A (i));
The ace pitcher (Al in Buckys and Adam in TAOF) is a primping lothario, who is
more concerned with the way he appeals to the opposite sex in his uniform than
with winning games (id., Addendum C (vii));
The team captain, a senior (Tischler in Buckys and Tennant in TAOF) is the
shortstop, whose position the Prodigy usurps (see id., 4).

27. The Prodigys downfall and redemption are particularly telling. In both works,

the Prodigy deserts his team. The Prodigy returns to the team during its first-ever championship

game. He enters this game only as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth inning, with his team

trailing by one run, with a man on first and two outs. The climactic scene, the one that readers

naturally anticipate, will surely end with the hero (1) saving the day by hitting a home run for the

win, or at least driving in the runner on first, or (2) striking out ignominiously in a replay of

Casey at the Bat. Instead, the Prodigy welcomes getting hit in the head with the baseball

(beaned in baseball parlance). The highly unusual and odd use of the beaning as a dramatic

device in those specific circumstances constitutes, by itself, a substantial similarity between these

baseball books.

(2) Recruiter-Mentor Plot

28. The two works feature a character (the Recruiter-Mentor) who discovers the

Prodigy, demonstrating his graceful, preternatural ability in a pointedly seedy, dead-end

environment. (See id., 3.) The Recruiter-Mentors in each novel have a number of attributes in


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Orphaned young and became the ward of an aunt;

Storys lone proletarian, having worked in a foundry;
Sees law school as a way out of the working-class trap;
Clings to Ive had it rough lament as a way of being morally superior to the
middle-class milieu of college life and, as a result, feels isolated;
Rails against dubious future, but, by the novels conclusion, accepts being a
Division III college coach as an honorable compromise.

(Id., 5.)

(3) Illicit-Romance Plot

29. The two novels include an illicit romantic relationship between a baseball team

member and a college administrator. The relationship is a critical aspect of the story; the scandal

threatens the administrators career because there are allegations that the players financial aid is

being protected as a result of the players involvement with the administrator. (See, e.g., id., 5

and 8.)

(4) Intergenerational Plot

30. Both works premises feature a long-running estrangement between a father and

his adult child:

Father has reached the pinnacle of success in his field, whereas adult child has
dropped out of school and thrown away an Ivy League education;
Father is a former quarterback, who dies under ambiguous circumstances in the
midst of a potentially career-wrecking scandal;
Adult child suspects the father may have committed suicide;
Filial duty drives adult child to resort to illegal measures to cover up possibility of
suicide by moving the body, thus preserving fathers reputation.

(See id., 5-6.)

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C. Act III: Baseball Climax and Denouement

The shared material and that which is most substantially harmful to Greens

unpublished work is starkly and startlingly evident in the third acts of each work. During

their third acts, the plots move forward in virtual lockstep:

After years of indifference to its long-moribund baseball program, the college

community notices the team is on the rise;
The teams Prodigy goes AWOL;
There is a Spahn and Sain reference to pejoratively describe the teams pitching
In the final 24 hours before the first-ever championship game, there is a sudden
threat of upset to the college community: looming scandal involving a baseball
player, college administrator and misuse of financial aid;
Facing the threat of scandal, the exposed character seeks guidance from a statue
of his lifelong idol. The statue visit is immediately juxtaposed with characters
indulgence in a magic-realist football reverie of a last-second pass thrown long
During the championship game, the Recruiter-Mentor recognizes that the team
has come into its own. The Prodigys inspiration and dedication have served their
purpose, his absence having brought out the best in his teammates;
AWOL Prodigy returns;
In late-inning action the teams power hitter erases the chalk line in the batters
box with his size fourteen spikes;
Prodigy joins the game only in the 9th inning, as a pinch-hitter, with two outs, a
runner on first, and his team down by one run;
The pitch count runs to two strikes and no balls (0-2), instead of the classic do-
or-die situation of a 3-2 count;
The story abruptly switches to the pitchers point of view; the pitcher suddenly
feels at risk rather than being in control, despite the advantageous count, and
considers going after the batter, disregarding the chance that it could result in
putting the go-ahead run on base;

Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were pitchers on the then-Boston Braves in 1948, and a writer
covering the team composed a poem lamenting the quality of the pitching staff after Spahn and Sain. (See
http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_rain.shtml.) The upshot of the poem is that, after the pitching
appearances of Spahn and Sain, the fans should hope for two days of rain so that the rest of the rotation
would be skipped and the two stars of the staff could pitch again.

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As the ball hurtles toward home, Prodigy sees the beaning as his salvation and
greets it with relief, rather than disappointment about not being the hero;
Following the championship game: cover-up of fathers apparent suicide by adult
child and Recruiter-Mentors reconciliation to a less-than-glorious but still worthy

(See generally id., 6-7 and 9-13.)

31. The climactic beaning scene calls for further examination. As noted above, the

Prodigy in both works is at the plate in the same situation: two outs, 0-2 count, with a runner on

first, down by a run in the first-ever baseball championship for a perennial Division III college

loser. At that very point in the story, both authors shift the focus from the Prodigy to the pitcher.

The pitcher makes the aberrant decision to risk putting the ball near the Prodigy and his bat, even

though it is common practice at every level of baseball from Opening Day in Little League to

the seventh game of the Major League World Series for a pitcher with the advantage of an 0-2

count to throw far away from the batter and the strike zone, such as high and outside or low and

in the dirt. This is known as wasting a pitch. It is significant that, in both works, the pitchers

decide to flout everything theyve ever been taught about working an 0-2 count and throw high

and inside with the acknowledged risk of hitting the Prodigy under the same

circumstances. (See id., 10-12.)

32. It would strain credulity to attribute the high level of similarity in the third act

described above to mere coincidence. What should be a unique, never-seen-before culmination

of the heros journey in the vast canon of great American baseball stories instead is seen twice in

the same era, in the same specialized setting, i.e., Division III college, rather than Little League,

high school, the minors, the majors, or even Division I college. Moreover, a reader of both of

TAOF and Buckys could draw only one of two inferences from how these baseball novels start

in the same unusual world and cap the journey through that world in the same atypical ways:

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The structural principles of all underdog/coming-of-age Division III baseball

stories dictate a plot that builds to the heros deserting his team only to return for
his beaning as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning of a first-ever championship
down one, two outs, with a count of 0-2 and then a return to the tragic story of
a former quarterback, who has died under mysterious circumstances in the midst
of a potentially career-wrecking scandal, and the disposition of his remains by his
adult child, who suspects suicide, or

TAOF and Buckys have a genetic relationship, and thus one of these baseball
novels is derivative of the other.5

D. Additional Shared Content

33. A sampling of the stand-alone duplications between the two works is below:

Buckys TAOF

College named after a woman, Alice Deal College named after a woman, Maria Westish

Character named Pee Wee Cox Character named Coach Cox

Characters named Sarah and Julie Characters named Sarah and Julie

Female lead in lilac miniskirt Female lead in lilac dress

Lone character identified as Korean named Lone character with evidently Korean surname
Sookie named Sooty

Ballplayer named McDougal Ballplayer named Dougal

College athlete named Lopez College athlete named Lopez

Relief pitcher nicknamed Crazy Relief pitcher nicknamed Loonie

Classic car 15 references to the Olds Classic car 10 references to the Buick

College team named for a tree College team named for a tree

Ballplayer referred to as the Buddha Ballplayer referred to as the Buddha

South Carolina as competition in NCAAs South Carolina as venue of NCCAs

The Appendix contains additional details on how the two works describe other events in the third act
at roughly the same point in the text and with similar language and/or imagery. (See id., 6-13.)

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(Id., 6.) A further list of stand-alone duplications may be found in Addendum A to the

Appendix. 6

IV. The Events Leading Up to the Publication of TAOF

34. In the Article, Gessen recounts the publication of TAOF after its rapid and

mysterious transformation in or around 2008/2009.

35. According to the Article and widespread media coverage elsewhere, the retooled

TAOF was (in stark contrast to the cold reception given to earlier versions) a hit and sparked a

competition among several publishers.

36. Gessen notes that Harbach declined a pre-emptive offer of $175,000 for the

publication and instead his agent conducted an auction, which yielded a winning offer from a

publisher of $665,000, which is extraordinary for a first novel. A contemporaneous headline

from Bloomberg.com captured the noteworthy event (although short-changing Harbach by

$15,000): Unemployed Harvard Man Auctions Baseball Novel for $650,000.

V. TAOF Film Deal

37. In May 2017, IMG and Mandalay Sports Media announced their intention to

produce a film based on TAOF. (See http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/art-fielding-


38. Trade publications have reported that a director and screenwriter are already in

place. (See, e.g., http://www.tracking-board.com/craig-johnson-to-direct-the-art-of-fielding-for-

varsity-blues-producer/.) That, in the customary practices of the film industry, puts the project in

There is shared content in several other scenes (in addition to the ones discussed above), where both
novels handle the same plot events with strikingly overlapping imagery, language and tone. (See id., 13-15
and Addendum C.)

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pre-production (as opposed to its being merely in development). A film containing Greens

proprietary content would do further harm to the publishing or production prospects of Buckys.

39. Upon information and belief, Harbach has benefitted financially (in an amount to

be determined) from the agreement regarding a film adaptation of TAOF.

Count I
(Damages for Copyright Infringement)

40. Green realleges and incorporates herein by reference all of the preceding

paragraphs of the Complaint as if set forth in full below.

41. As alleged above, Harbach infringed on Greens copyright through (i) the

misappropriation of critical elements found in Buckys (and other versions of the work); and (ii)

the resulting publication of TAOF. The substantial similarities detailed above provide strong

evidence of infringement, and they further demonstrate that Harbach must have had access to a

version (or versions) of Buckys at various points in time.

42. Harbachs infringement has continued to date, including (among other things)

Harbachs entry into an agreement for a film adaptation of TAOF.

43. Harbachs actions constitute copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. 106 and

501, and they are the direct and proximate cause of injuries to Green.

44. Accordingly, Green requests relief in the form of damages from Harbach,

pursuant to 17 U.S.C 504, in an amount to be determined at trial. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C 505,

Green also seeks the recovery of his full costs, including reasonable attorneys fees, incurred in

connection with this action.

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Count II
(Injunctive Relief)

45. Green realleges and incorporates herein by reference all of the preceding

paragraphs of the Complaint as if set forth in full below.

46. The Copyright Act provides that the Court may grant temporary and final

injunctions on such terms as it may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain infringement of a

copyright. 17 U.S.C. 502.

47. As alleged above, Harbach has entered into an agreement for a film adaptation of

TAOF, which constitutes a copyright infringement. The release of such a film would result in a

further copyright infringement and could also warrant injunctive relief.

48. Accordingly, Green requests that the Court enter a permanent injunction, pursuant

to 17 U.S.C 502, barring Harbach from taking additional steps to further the film version of

TAOF. Green reserves the right to seek a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order

on the same grounds and pursuant to 17 U.S.C 502.

Demand for Jury Trial

Green hereby demands a jury trial on all claims for which trial by jury is available.

Relief Requested

WHEREFORE, Green requests the entry of a judgment in his favor awarding (a)

damages against Harbach under Count I and pursuant to 17 U.S.C 504; (b) an injunction

against Harbach, as requested in Count II and in a form to be determined by the Court, pursuant

to 17 U.S.C 502; (c) costs and reasonable attorneys fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C 505; and (d)

such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

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Content Shared by
New York Times-bestselling The Art of Fielding (Little, Brown; 2011)
Buckys 9th (unpublished, submitted by agent, 2006-7, to
all major trade publishers)

I. Summary/Overview
Bucky's 9th and The Art of Fielding each chronicle a miracle championship-contention season of the
baseball team at a small American liberal arts college whose athletes play in NCAA Division III.

Comparative reading of the two books reveals extensive, diverse commonalities beyond their broad-
strokes subject matter and genre-driven coincidence. The points in common run the gamut from

aspects of fiction typically discussed in book groups and high school English classes: plot,
incident, structure, characterization, conflict, setting, theme, and visual imagery


literary/storytelling devices, semantics and idiosyncratic phrasing of the sort picked up by editors,
critics and academics: uncannily specific duplications in word-use, verbal imagery, cadence, tone,
plot mechanics, mood and atmosphere.

Plot and Structure Section III

Textual Details, Passages, and Scene Sequencing Section IV
Similarity in Extended, Patterned Clusters Section V

II. Premises, Setting; Genre and Convention vs Authorial Choice

It is a given that there are only so many ways to write a sports story, a coming-of-age story, or a college
story. Put the three together and overlap becomes probable, especially in stories premises, where the
conventions of genre and/or standard aspects of the depicted milieus exert themselves.
The common ground on which Buckys 9th (B9) and The Art of Fielding (TAOF) both open is plausibly a
function of genre, sports-story convention, and the realities of college life and of baseball.
1) loser-underdogs, last-place team in the league :

B9: No team in the schools fifty-three-year history has ever come close to winning the division.
Not even in Joe Hankss day. (p. 10)
One day Willie had paused at the equipment room wall, plastered with framed team photos. He
scoured the faces from Joe Hanks squad to the early 90s, which was when the wall ran out of
space. They all deserved a place up there, and Willie wondered which bunch would have to step
aside for this years picture. Swallowing a lump, he said in a hoarse voice, This ones for all of
us. (p. 88)

Texts cited: Buckys 9th, version submitted to publishers by The Guma Agency, 2006-2007; The Art of Fielding,
Little, Brown hardcover first edition, September 2011.
Case 1:17-cv-06984-AKH Document 1 Filed 09/14/17 Page 20 of 43

TAOF: All those losing seasons. And not just for us. For all the guys who came before us too.
A hundred and four years of baseball, and Westish College, our college, has never won
conference. Never. (p. 160)

B9: the worst-place team in college baseball history after seven seasons of owning last
place, the Oaks have become a laughingstock (pp. 7-8, 10)
TAOF: the Westish Harpooners had been crappy for too many years to count (p. 11)

2) they are loser-underdogs because they are the financially disadvantaged teams of their leagues:

B9: The school needs money any which way it can get it (p. 34)
TAOF: Im sure Westish College needs all the money it can scrape together (p. 12)

B9: private contributions have dried up. (p. 14)

TAOF: theres almost nothing coming in from donors. (p. 59)

3) David v. Goliaththe underfunded, underinspired team perennially trounced by well-

heeled rivals:

B9: where was this guy a couple years ago when Alice Deal [College] started double-digiting
us? (p. 58)
TAOF: they had never, in one hundred seasons, won a conference title. Their opponents, the
Coshwale Muskies, had captured twenty-nine in that same time span, including four in a row (p.

4) an agent of the team recruits a baseball prodigy who will amount to nothing if he doesnt
take the chance; neither the stellar recruit nor anyone else can account for his
preternatural gift:

B9: A few years you havent swung a bat? Howd I miss all this? [...] Yeah, but that carnival,
right? Willie eyes me guardedly. Howd you do that? I honestly dont know. (p. 39)
TAOF: Damn Skrim! Starblind yelled. Whered that come from? Henry didnt know. He tried to
remember the footwork but the moment had passed. (p. 38)

B9: Coach, Ive seen a few plays like that in my lifetime. Not a single one by a deaf teenager.
(p. 85)
TAOF: Ive seen a lot of baseball, Guert. But never have I seen someone like Henry. (p. 66)

It is noteworthy that in addition to these shared starting points, both novels choose the same far-from-
conventional setting: a small, off-the-grid but academically proud liberal arts college whose athletic teams
play in Division IIIthe depths of the NCAA, where there are no athletic scholarships. Baseball fiction has
brought readers and audiences to just about every other conceivable venue and level of competition:

The Naturala phenom comes out of nowhere to play in the bigs

You Know Me, Ala lummox of an ace pitcher in the bigs
Bang the Drum Slowlymajor league catcher's journey from struggle to greatness to early death
Damn Yankeesa fan makes a deal with the devil so his hometown major league team can win
A League of Their Ownthe first years of women's professional baseball
Major Leaguea bunch of misfits turn their professional club around
Eight Men Outthe 1919 Black Sox scandal, dramatized in book and movie

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Shoeless Joe/Field of Dreamsa farmer finds redemption for J. Jackson/1919 Black Sox scandal
Bull Durhamlife in the minor leagues
Bingo Longs Traveling All-Starsbarnstorming Negro League team
The Bad-News BearsLittle League misfits get help from ringers
The Great American Novelfarce about replacement players in major leagues during WWII

As far as Google enables a curious reader to determine, the long-thriving industry of baseball stories has
produced no other narrative vehicles that cohabit the abstruse, lackluster realm chosen by the authors of
both B9 and TAOF. On its own, this choice of the least glorious stratum of intercollegiate sport would
make either work unique in the canon of baseball narratives.

Independently created works, as they move through rising action, conflict escalations and resolutions, can
be expected, even if they bear such likeness in premises, to become less and less alike, via increasing
reliance on content arising from authorial choice.
Yet such subjective, non-generic choices, ostensibly made by each books author, reveal prolific
similarities of detail, action and phrasing. The two works not only do not diverge, they converge.

III. Comparative Plots and Structures

Each presents a multi-stranded, braided story, anchored by four core narratives.

Taken individually, any of these storylines is fairly conventional.

As these plots develop and intertwine, in each book, they become, in the aggregate, implausibly alike.

The Baseball-Prodigy-Comes-of-Age Plot

Prodigy, whose baseball career dates from a bonding interaction with his father in his formative years, is
discovered by a character who needs someone just like him, and who only in the moment perceives that
needthe Recruiter-Mentor. The discovery takes place in a pointedly seedy environment, where the
Prodigy demonstrates his preternatural skill with a ball:

B9, p. 7 TAOF, p. 3
a carnival with ramshackle rides, this ramshackle ballpark between a
where the Prodigy throws from an ice-hard junkyard and an adult bookstore
mound flattening from roadway to waters
edge, wedged between a natural gas terminal
and a sewage treatment plant

He arrives at the school physically unprepared for college-level competitionone underweight, one
overweight. He enrolls late, once the class he is joining has already formed. He is admonished that
although recruited for his athletic prowess he will have to perform up to academic standard.

B9, p. 38 TAOF, p. 13
Im sure Coach Chance told you we have Westish is not your average school. The
high standards at Hill. Were proud of our academics are tough
academic reputation.

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He is immediately cast as the outsider.

He has to endure the indignity of being imposed on a roommate and teammate who thought he had the
privilege of a dorm room to himself and is displeased by the Prodigys invasion.

The Prodigys other new teammates greet his arrival as a mock Second Coming:

B9, pp. 40-41 TAOF, p. 30

This physical specimen of a moose covering So youre the guy Schwartz keeps talking
third yells hey at Willie and signs what seems about the baseball messiah.
to be, This is the savior?

At the same point in the season in both books (win-and-loss records: 1 & 8; 1 & 7), with other players
wanting to see him in action, the Prodigy nabs the shortstop position from the teams captain, a

B9, p. 58 TAOF, p. 43
But frankly I dont care if he knocks over You know its only my first year, Henry
liquor stores, as long as he helps us win. said. I can wait.
Booey and she put their hands together in a Maybe you can. Schwartz didnt look up.
sign of solidarity. Al absently taps their But the rest of us cant. Were one and
hands with his left, but Tischler keeps seven
signing. Win what? Were 1-8.

Prodigys usurpation of the veterans position plays through in a locker room altercation resulting in a
bloody nose. [TAOF, p. 44-45; B9, p. 40]

Meanwhile, the Prodigy gets a glimmer of hope that he will find at least one kindred spirit here: he
discovers a familiar yet esoteric book on another characters bookshelf. [TAOF, p. 15; B9, p. 50, p. 79]

The Prodigy is playing for this Division III team despite the fact he has evident pro prospects:

B9, p. 39. TAOF, p. 49

every scout in the Tri-state area camped the scouts were loitering in their Ray-Bans
behind the backstop behind the backstop

A critical moment for each Prodigy comes when he is extracted, all but forcibly, from a state of hyperbolic
squalor into which he has descended. [An important note for purposes of clarity: Henry Skrimshander and
Kenesaw Bucky Bucks both go AWOL during their teams runs to the championship; Bucky also went
AWOL in his back storyhis desertion of his Princeton team initiated his alienation from baseball.]

The Prodigy, with Recruiter-Mentors coaching, leads team in an unprecedented run to the championship.

During that run, the Prodigy goes AWOL, deserting his teammates. The Prodigys AWOL catalyzes:

the abandoned teams coming into its own, without the Prodigy
the Prodigys eventual coming of age, and discovery that there is more to life than baseball,
more than living up to/competing with the god-like athlete he has spent his life idolizing
the Recruiter-Mentors coming to terms with his lot as a coach in Division III

The Prodigy returns to the diamond in the 9th inning of the championship gamewhere instead of hitting
the expected homerun, or striking out, with two outs and the count of 0-2, he gets beaned in the head.

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The Recruiter-Mentor Plot

The two Recruiter-Mentors have a remarkable number of attributes in common. Each:

was orphaned young and wound up the ward of an aunt;
has, as the storys lone proletarian, tasted blue-collar hellby working in a foundry;
recognized law school as a ticket out of the working-class trap;
clings to his "I've had it rough" lament as a way of being both morally superior to and
aloof from the middle-class college milieu in which he is isolated; voices bitterness and
resentment in fire-and-brimstone exhortations of his teams players;
in the Prodigys absence, leads, challenges, hectors and despairs over the team;
rails against his also-ran fate, but ultimately embraces an honorable compromise in
accepting his place as a coach in Division III.

The Illicit-Romance Plot

An out-of-bounds intimacy develops between a college officer and baseball-playing student:

the administrator in each case is drawn irresistibly to the student not solely by his physical
attractiveness, but by the fact he is the odd man out on the baseball team (one, despite having
perfectly good hearing, is clandestinely enrolled at a school for the deaf; the other is gay and bi-
the administrator romanticizes coffee-drinking as a time-honored couples ritual, but the student

B9, pp. 135-136 TAOF, p. 281

To some people, evidently, variety is the I we drink coffee. He sounded pleading
spice of life. Others may want to know that and inane, trying to imbue these three simple
the same person will be there every day when words, this one banal act, with all the import
they wake up. And maybe every morning and sentiment it held for him.
read the paper and drink coffee together. Everybody drinks coffee, Owen said.
Well guess what? I dont drink coffee

The Intergenerational Plot

A long-running estrangement between:

the Father who has reached the pinnacle of success in his highly visible field and:
whose absorption in himself and his career accomplishments has led to a distant,
strained relationship with his Adult Offspring;
once enjoyed a dubious reputation as a ladies man, never as a family man;
nearing his careers culmination, engages in reckless, irresponsible behavior;
thus precipitating a scandal in which he faces the threat of exposure and disgrace;
cheats the scandal by dying suddenly and under ambiguous circumstances;

the Adult Offspring who has, in the backstory, dropped out of school and thrown away an Ivy
League education and:
has gone out West, to escape the Fathers shadow and expectations that she/he will
follow in Fathers footsteps, but failed to escape and is now drawn back;
starts at college mid-semester, as a freshperson, though a few years older than his/her
carries alone, in his/her gut, a certainty that the Fathers death was a suicide;

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takes filial duty to mean covering up any evidence of that, to conceal the Fathers guilt,
and shore up his reputation;
in order to fulfill that duty resorts to illegal measures.

IV. Text Analysis: Details, Passages, and Scene Sequencing

The shared content most readily apparent consists simply of random duplications. A sampling:


College named Alice Deal College named Maria Westish

Pee Wee Cox CoachCox
Sarah and Julie Sarah and Julie
the female lead in lilac miniskirt the female lead in lilac dress
lone character identified as Korean named lone character with evidently Korean
Sookie surname named Sooty
ballplayer named McDougal ballplayer named Dougal
college athlete named Lopez college athlete named Lopez
relief pitcher nicknamed Crazy relief pitcher nicknamed Loonie
a personified classic car15 references to a personified classic car10 references to
the Olds/Oldsmobile the Buick
college team named for a tree college team named for a tree
ballplayer referred to as the Buddha ballplayer referred to as the Buddha
South Carolina as competition in NCAAs South Carolina as venue of NCAAs
[Further inventories of stand-alone points of this kind appear in Addendum A.]

The proliferation of shared material is most starkly evident in the storys third acts. As the stories move
toward their finales, they rely increasingly on multi-item clusters of similar and often identical authorial

These clusters form an aggregate of event, expression and imagery that is much the same in both books.

Within the aggregate, moreover, an extraordinary temporal overlap appears; similar incidents and scenes
occur at the same pointsmeasured as a percentage of elapsed page-countin each work.

By the start of the third act of each novel, the plots move forward in virtual lockstep:

after years of indifference to its long-moribund baseball program, the college community notices the
team is on the rise.
the team wins a critical game, reaching championship contentionand panics because theyve lost
their Prodigy, who has gone AWOL.
in the final 24 hours before the championship game, a sudden threat of upset to the college
community: looming scandal involving a baseball player, college official and misuse of financial aid.
facing threat of scandal, exposed character seeks the mute guidance of a statue of his lifelong idol;
statue visit is immediately juxtaposed with characters indulgence in a magic-realist football reverie.

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during the championship game, Recruiter-Mentor recognizes that team has, through the absence of
the Prodigy, come into its ownhis star recruits inspiration and dedication have served their purpose,
and the Prodigys going AWOL has brought out the best in his teammates.
With players already on the field, the AWOL Prodigy returns.
In late inning actions, the opposing pitcher rationalizes doing the unthinkable: putting the go-ahead run
on base.
Prodigy, having joined the game only in the 9th inning, as a pinch-hitterwith two outs and a runner on
first, and his team down by one runopts for the ultimate sacrifice: get beaned in the head, forsaking
Epilogue, following the championship game: the cover-up of the Fathers apparent suicide; Recruiter-
Mentors reconciliation to a less-than-glorious but still worthy future.

The evening before the must-win game to go to the championship or go home:

B9, p. 107 TAOF, p. 331

I wait for Willie to say something to Booey, The split left them one game behind
on-deck, but the coach has already taken off Coshwale in the UMSCAC standings, with
his cap and is picking at his kinks to the another doubleheader tomorrow at the
refrain of, To-morrow, to-morrow, I love ya Muskies home diamond. Tomorrow,
to-morrow. someone said, and it became a refrain to nod
to and repeat.

An alienated member of the college community, in a state of notably bad hygiene, having read the college
newspapers article on the teams change of fortune, reacts with rage.

B9, p. 84 TAOF, pp. 380-381

By the time the Oldsmobile wheezes into Henry ripped down the page, tore it into thin
the fields lot, the Hill College News is strips like confetti, and peed on the strips. In
confetti on the passenger seat. [] the mirror as he washed his hands he saw
Im glad the team is going out on a high how he looked in his filthy sweatshirt. He
note! His whine is panicky. [] His breath hadnt shaved or showered in days.
could clear a locker room.
[the word, curiously, is confetti but the
picture is notwhat comes in long strips is

Wavering between swagger and self-doubt, the ballplayers rework the same short, iconic ditty from
baseball loreSpahn and Sain and Pray for Rainthus casting themselves ironically as big-league.

B9, p. 104 TAOF, p. 402

Guys say that when Sain is feeling it, youd The real problem is pitching. Weve never
be off the reservation to use the bat for played so many games in so few days.
anything other than self-defense. [] this Remember the old poem Spahn and Sain and
was good for a late-inning chuckle and pray for rain? For us its Starblind and Phlox
spawned the expression, Crazy Sain and and then get rocked.
watch your brain.

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The Interlude:

At the same point in both storiesthe final 24 hours before the championship game, the Prodigy AWOL
from the teamthe novels now take a detour from baseball, into their Illicit Romance Plots. Revelations
emerging from the clandestine affair between ballplaying student and college administrator threaten a
scandal. In B9, the affair is one of the two elements in the possible scandal. In TAOF, the scandal arises
directly from exposure of the affair.
The threat casts a pall over the suddenly promising destiny of the scrappy underdogs. Both novels keep
knowledge of the crisis from the rank-and-file players.

The characters enter a sequence of anomalous scenes that have much more in common with each other
than with a story focused on baseball.

The overlap of events entails settings, plot points, imagery, interaction, narration, and speech.
Moreover, the sequence occurs at precisely the same point in each text.

B9: pp. 131-136 (of 155) starts: 84.5% into text; ends: 87.7%
TAOF: pp. 431-449 (of 510) starts: 84.3% into text, by page count2; ends: 87.8%

In this run of pages:

1) Characters implicated in illicit romance and misuse of financial aid employ same thought process
on how best to begin a speech.
Bucky has to make a confession. Guert Affenlight has to give an address at commencement.

B9, p. 131 TAOF, p. 431

Having seen my father hypnotize the crowd he knew from his own student days how
at his induction in Canton, Ohio, with his the most formidable professors always
down-home delivery and polished gags, and garnered the biggest laughs; the slightest
having roadied for the off-season orations, display of levity, however forced, was enough
too, I know its always best to open with to send spasms of giddy relief through a
levity especially around potential hecklers lecture hall

2) This rumination is immediately followed by equivocating confession of involvement in the scandal

to the Assistant Dean of Students (B9) or Dean of Students (TAOF).
3) Denied leeway or pardon, the accused leaves open the question of whether he will face the
consequences, or flee.
4) The dilemma prompts a pilgrimage to a publicly displayed statue: the monolithic, god-like figure
whose legacy the accused has long championed, and who in his own day took his own socially
unacceptable secret to the grave.
5) Resolution of the sequences conflict pivots on the characters reveries of out-of-a-blaze-of-glory
moments in long-ago football games. Two quarterbacksboth the Fatherthrow Hail Mary
passes in a time-dilated moment in the pocket, danger swirling all around and visions of eternity
on the horizon.

How percentages are calculated: page number (not counting pages that precede the text of the novel in
hardcover edition of TAOF) divided by page count devoted to text. B9, in single-space manuscript, begins on p. 1
and ends on p. 155. So: %age = page # divided by 155.
The hardcover edition of TAOF starts Chapter 1 on p. 3 and reaches The End on p. 512. So: %age = page # minus
2, divided by 510.

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B9, p. 136 TAOF, pp. 448-449

[The cameraman misses] Willies streak by Affenlight drop-stepped, scissored, dropped,
the last Giant defender, concentrating instead scissored. The end would come from his
on the big paw that jars the ball from blind side. Cavanaugh loved the go route, ran
Thunders hand. As the final second runs off it like a big-college guy though he couldnt
the game clock, Thunder, in a billow of catch anything, what a tease that made him, a
jerseys, digs the ball from the turf before purveyor of false hope with his racehorse
tucking it to his broken ribs and slipping strides, neck and neck with his man but not
through a slit in the pocket. Nothing but for long, no safety ever deep enough to be
daylight ahead. He points Willie to zig to the there to take credit when Cavanaugh dropped
other corner and cocks his throwing arm. the ball. Still there was always the chance
Sidney Jones throws off a blocker. Stolid that this would be the one. []
and stony, Thunder sets his feet and offers It was then, as he finished his seven-step drop
the All-Pro defensive lineman a free shot a and heard Melvilles words and saw
bloody, bruising, concussive bang thats too Cavanaugh gaining separation from his man,
late to cancel the prettiest spiral ever captured that Affenlight knew he was through with
on video. football, through for all time, he wouldnt be
back next year. Other things awaited. It was
Thunder misses Willies leaping catch. He good to be young and to know it for once. So
misses Willies end zone kneel. He misses much unfolding to do. He had the laces, he
his wife and kids teary joy. But between patted the ball. Footsteps pounded toward
chuffs of bile, Thunder distinctly hears the him from behind. [] but he no longer
Eagle Announcer say: Give thanks, Willie. cared whether Cavanaugh caught it or not,
You just caught a pass from God. and as the end arrived and his breath left him
he couldnt remember or imagine ever having

Between points lying 84% and 88% into text, either passage cut from one novel and pasted into the same
spot in the other would fit neatly. But for the names of the football players, a reader would not even notice
the shift. The action would move seamlessly, the imagery would match, and the tone would be unvaried.

The Interludes idiosyncratic run of events, while unrelated to baseball, operates in each novel as the plot
mechanism to bring the Prodigy back to his team and the championship game.

The variations in the two sequences:

in B9 the reverie precedes the statue visit, while in TAOF, that order is reversed.
TAOF interpolates between confession and statue visit a scene in which Affenlight extracts the
Prodigy from the squalor into which he has descended.

[For comparisons of passages within the Interlude in TAOF to passages from earlier phases of B9, see
Addendum B.]

Both books cut immediately from this sequence to the site of the championship game, a minor league
baseball stadium where the national anthem is about to play over the PA system.

For the duration of this climactic game, virtual lockstep advances to literal, play-by-play lockstep.

The championship game:

In the citations that follow, percentage points illustrate how the stories action progresses not just via the
occurrence of like incidents in the same order, but by their occurrence at closely commensurate intervals.

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Each novel opens the chapter devoted to the culmination of the baseball story with the same set-up: a
panorama of the stadium, and The Star-Spangled Banner delivered to the crowd by a washed-up
character described as alcoholic in appearance. (B9: p. 137; TAOF: p. 450)

Recruiter-Mentor, fearing a team meltdown, assesses the players attitude before launching into his
traditional fire and brimstone; he sees that in fact, no: His players are not nervous, but supremely
confidentto the point of being blas, as if they go to the championship every year.

B990.3% TAOF88.6%
They followed Tischlers lead, conducting Schwartz cast his gaze around the circle one
themselves as if fate had already determined more time. What came back was something
theyd leave as champions and that playing beyond confidence, a sense that the game
the full nine was a mere formality. might as well already have happened.
(p. 140) (p. 454)

The Prodigy returns.

B987.7% TAOF88.8%
equipment bag slung over my shoulder absurdly large Westish bag slung over his
(p. 136) shoulder (p. 455)

Late-inning action reminds underdogs that even in what has proven a tight game, the deck is stacked
against them; tantrum by batter (B9) or catcher (TAOF) in reaction to bad call by umpire:

B994.2% TAOF90.8%
Jenna dispatches the twins to drag Al off by Another half-second and he would have
his snake tattoos before he gets himself done something to get himself ejected, if not
institutionalized. (p. 146) arrested. (p. 464)

Late-inning action continues; the teams behemoth uses his spikessize fourteensto efface the chalk
line of the batters box:

B994.8% TAOF91.2%
Wayne steps into a sandy box, where the Schwartzy strode to the plate and pawed at
chalk has been mashed into the dirt. And the chalk-swirled back line of the batters box
what broken squiggles remain in the back, he with his size-fourteen spike. (p. 466)
obliterate[s] with a sweep of his size
fourteens. (p. 146)

The Prodigy finally takes the field, in the critical moment of the run to the championship, entering the
game as a pinch-hitter in the 9 inning:

B9: start: 94.8%; end: 96.8% [pp. 147-150]

TAOF: start: 91.6%; end: 92.5% [pp. 469-474]

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2 outs; Prodigys at-bat quickly goes to 0-2 (not the totemic moment in which the next pitch would determine
his fate, 3-2).

The 0-2 count also should obligate the batter to protect the plate and swing at virtually anything that looks
close. Suddenly, the novels withdraw their psychological focus from the Prodigy and switch to the pitchers
point of view. Both pitchers are a single strike away from championship and glory, yet they do what every
pitcher has been taught not to do when ahead in the count: throw the ball anywhere near the batter. With
plenty of pitches to waste before giving away a walk, the pitcher has multiple opportunities to throw whatever
the batter cant touch, that even Babe Ruth couldnt get a stick on. Thus, the pitcher is in the catbird seat to
bounce a curveball outsidefar from the batter and his trembling bat. Theres no upside to his taking the
crazy risk of intimidating the batter.

Another salient aspect of this commonality between the texts is that it means not one but two hit batsmen in
each novels big game, both plunkings having been arrogantly premeditated by the pitcher:

B996.5% (second plunking) TAOF91.6% (first plunking)

Never put the go-ahead run on-base, but, Ill put the go-ahead run on base, and then Ill get out
Blanks indicates Tisch, stretching in the on-deck of it. (p. 469)
circle, Homes swings a banjo. (p. 148)

In the final, truncated at-bat, both authors opt to step out of the baseball game once again and go with the
same superfluous image:

B994.2% TAOF92.2%
the ball hooks foul long before diving into a He dipped one foot inside the batters box, as
swimming pool. (p. 146) if testing the temperature of a pool. (p. 472)

As the 0-2 offering looms, the Prodigy contemplates doing nothing, abdicating his at-bats outcome to

B996.8% TAOF92.5%
and get ready to leave the bat on my shoulder. ...since he had no intention of swinging at
(p. 150) the pitch. (p. 474)

The ball comes hurtling in. Forgetting self-preservation the Prodigy is thinking, in terms of prayer, about
the act of atonement he is preparing to make to his Recruiter-Mentor.

B996.8% TAOF92.5%
Willies prayer has finally been answered, I His mind subsided into something like
barely have time to think (p. 150) prayer. Forgive me, Schwartzy, for quitting
the team (p. 474)
His moment of valor amounts to going down with a bang and a whimper:

B996.8% TAOF92.5%
the intentional-unintentional had found me and He stepped sharply toward home plate,
my head, which now tolls the hour. dipping his shoulder as he did so, as if
(p. 150) expecting, diving into, a slider low and
away. (p. 474)

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He pays for his free pass. He takes the pitch right in the head, and though knocked silly, can go to first
base with a clear conscience. He has kept his teams hopes alive without hogging the limelight.

Post-game commentary is groused by the figure who first brought the Prodigy to college baseball:

B998.7% TAOF92.9%
That ball you tugged foul into those poor You dove into that thing like it was a
peoples swimming pool shouldve gone to swimming pool. (p. 476)
right! (p. 153)

Now that the once-in-forever magical season has ended:

Each novel devotes its denouement/finale to the two plots still awaiting resolutionthe Intergenerational
and Recruiter-Mentor.


The Father, a onetime quarterback, having been threatened with exposure for misdeeds is suddenly and
unexpectedly found dead on the day of a post-season championship college baseball game. In B9, this
climax drives the Prodigy out of the game and initiates his AWOL, which culminates in his recruitment in
the novels opening and the beginning of his coming-of-age; in TAOF, this climax thrusts the Prodigy back
into the game after his AWOL and leads to his coming-of-age in his final at-bat. In both books, this pivotal
momentthe revelation of the death of the Fatherdisrupts the 9th inning of a crucial game, changing the
outcome irrevocably.

In each story, the follow up to the revelation of the Fathers death is a covert, indirect acknowledgment
to the Adult Offspringby the figure who threatened the Fathers exposure of having done so. This party
paid an unannounced visit to the Father immediately before the sudden, poorly explained demise. By
implication, the new information reinforces the Adult Offsprings suspicion that the Fathers death was

In both books, the on-campus scandals (in B9, the Adult Offspring is a conspirator for the purpose of
vindicating his Fathers misdeeds in the original scandal; in TAOF, the Father is a conspirator) are tied to
the possibility that the Fathers reputation will be shattered. Thus the Adult Offspring panics at the news
that a college administrator can blow the whistle on the scandal and destroy the Fathers legacy.

B998.1% TAOF94.9%
Julie knows. He knows, Pella thought. He knows about
Dont even say that to me. Owen. The Dean of Students knows about
Julie Ross, the Assistant Dean of Students, Owen. (p. 486)
knows. (p. 119)

The two Adult Offspring choose the same criminal act to make posthumous amends and fulfill the duty to
protect the deceased Fathers reputation: tampering with the Fathers remains to thwart forensic inquiry,
or even mere speculation that the death was a suicide. The possibility that the Father ended his own life,
if made public, would implicate him in wrongdoing and wreck his legacy.

In B9, the Adult Offspring confesses to having taken this drastic step.
In TAOF, the Adult Offspring takes this drastic step in real time.
The revelation of this criminal act takes place at the same point in both novels:


Buckys 9th/The Art of Fielding 12

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Bucky divulges that he rearranged the scene of his fathers death to make it look like an accident.
[When you found the bird. (B9, p. 152)]

Pella Affenlight exhumes her fathers remains, to give them covert burial at sea, albeit in Lake Michigan.
[scooped Affenlight up and over the side. (TAOF, p. 505)]

Both narrators leave it to the reader to conclude whether the Adult Offspring acted out of hysteria or
shrewdly carried out the Fathers dying wish. The two novels choose to conclude the Intergenerational
plots with the same indeterminate verdict: We have reason to suspect, but we will never know for sure.


The Recruiter-Mentor, who got the novel started by bringing in the Prodigy to play for the underdogs, and
goaded and guided him through to his coming-of-age in the championship season, completes his own
coming-of-age story. His trajectory began with orphanhood, passed through the trap of wage-slavery at a
foundry and on to Division III college baseball, which for him has proved a dead end. He was once a star
of the show, and now his glory days are over.

Each Recruiter-Mentor reconciles himself to this fateby sticking around to coach Division III baseball for
the team he has led to its first-ever season as contenders for the championship.

His coming to terms with this destiny fulfills a dubious thought he voiced to himself earlier in the book,
when championships were still pipe dreams and possibilities were more numerous:

B9, p. 11 TAOF, p. 425

... expectations were low, and the pay solid. It wasnt graduate-of-Yale-Law money, it
If he could get Elaine off his case and wasnt first round draft pick money, but it
concentrate on leading the lackluster Oaks was okay. A person could pay his rent, his
out of the cellar for fifteen minutes, the doors Visa bill. He could even, before too long, put
might open for him to pick up the basketball down a payment on a car that could hold a
job, double his take-home, and at some quart of oil, get the Buddha off his back
juncture rent a condo down the shore. about his carbon footprint.

The Recruiter-Mentors trajectory, from resistance to acceptance, bookends the two novels.
B9 and TAOF both open their baseball plots with this character, at practice on a baseball fieldand each
novels baseball finale is a reprise, with a new spin, of his action in the opening.


Mike Schwartz watches the Prodigy field grounders at a tournament to which he came as an opponent and
sees the Prodigy as his teams salvation from its endless losing streak. (p. 510)

Willie Chance stroking flies over his players heads, as an expression of his contempt for their
indifference to winning and of his frustration with being stuck in this dead-end coaching position. (p. 154)

V. Content Overlap in Patterned ClustersMeat meets Potatoes

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To close this section of text analysis, let us take a look at one more such odd sequence of action that has
nothing to do with baseball, and yet traces the same pattern in both books, in diverse elements: imagery,
character psychology, narrator tone, conflicts, props, sound effects and specific behaviors.

The idiosyncratic yet uncannily alike sequences proceed from the same dramatic context:
The Recruiter-Mentor provokes the Adult Offspring by sneeringly invoking the Fathers achievements and
exalted position to diminish the Adult Offspringwho storms out and slams door.
B9, p. 25 TAOF, p. 243
The screen door slammed. The bedroom door slammed, as did the front
While this is essentially rote, action both narrators choose the less common usage of the transitive verb
the character doesnt slam the door, the door itself slams.
The Adult Offspring then seeks an inanimate object to assault, as an expression of rage:
B9, pp. 24-25 TAOF, pp. 248-249
I line up the metal dumpster and hit it hard [Pella] cuffed the skinny knotted trunk of
enough to sprain three knuckles on my a staked campus sapling with an open-handed
throwing hand. A couple more swigs and slap. Hate hate hate. she gave the tree
jabs, and irony sets in because my fingers angry roundhouse slaps with alternate
gnarl like winter branches around the bottle hands.
of peach schnapps. The finger was either sprained or broken.

Each turns, figuratively, into a boxer working a heavy bag.

[Pella] wound up to give the tree one last cleansing whack, but she swung too hard and, instead
of cuffing the trunk with her palm, her middle finger struck the knotty bark awkwardly. (p. 249)
Why does Pella need to damage her knuckle, given the gymnastics required?
Through the forward action, this injury is to figure in both novels as the physical, concrete reminder of the
characters rashness and volatility. These bruised knuckles will make three more appearances over the
coming twenty-five pages in B9, five more over the coming forty pages in TAOF.
These repeated references to the injured knuckles advance from simple paraphrase:
B9, p. 52 TAOF, p. 249
My bruised fingers throb. Her finger pulsed with blood and pain.

The bruised knuckles also will function for each as the icebreaker and initial point of sympathy expressed
by an on-the-horizon romantic interest. Moreover, the inanimate objects are personified:
B9, p. 52 TAOF, p. 250
She sits next to me on the couch and What happened to your finger? he asked.
delicately touches the purple spots on my Nothing. I beat up a tree.
hand. That gets my heart going. Ouch, she Do you want some ice? Theres an ice
says. machine in the basement of my dorm.
B9, p. 62
I vow internally to never sleep with or have
any intimate exchanges with a dumpster

Buckys 9th/The Art of Fielding 14

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Still within the attack-inanimate-object sequence, the Adult Offsprings flight happens to involve a floor
sticky with an age-old accumulation of spilled beverage:
B9, p. 25 TAOF, p. 247
I make for the back, through the gossipy but it would have been disgusting to walk
whispers and my sneakers squeaks as they around barefoot on those floors, slick with
gawp through the dried puddles of Coke. beer and the memory of mopped-up
Weirdest of all, during each confrontation, some irrelevant bit player sits out of view, on a toilet. He is
present, apparently, just to gross the scene up a little more, participating in the action by his grunting or
snoring: B9s Charlie Potatoes and TAOFs Mike Meat Arsch.
Meat and Potatoes share, along with their lummoxiness, various coarse attributes. Each treats the others
in the next room, and the reader, to an intimate connection with his bowel movement:
B9, p. 25 TAOF, 243-244
At the end of the room, the bathroom door [Pella high-tails it; door slams on her exit.]
cracks open as Charlie Potatoes leans off his A thin crease of light came from beneath the
toilet seat for a peek. shut bathroom door. The toilet flushed and
[Bucky high-tails it.] Arschs wide pink body, even wider than
The bathroom door pulls shut, and Charlie Schwartzs, filled the door frame. He
Potatoes can be heard sliding back on his scratched his balls through his boxers. You
throne and chuckling faintly. all right? he asked, squinting without his
[Door slams on Buckys exit.] contacts. []
Meats door clicked shut, and the bedsprings
wailed mightily through the wall.

[A selection of similar clusters of plot event and imagery that form the structure of like sequences, with
citations from both books, is presented in Addendum B.]

Once again, as in the case of the statue-visit-football-reverie sequence, a run of action and emotion, while
highly idiosyncratic, appears in both books, with most of the same elements and virtually identical
narrative texture.

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Addendum Astand-alone oddities

1. details, bit players and props:
visual/verbal imagery that mirrors/echoes between the two books
similar text in similar context

Prodigy as the focus of fans hopes and animosity:

B9, p. 115 TAOF, p. 267

half the crowd whistles relief. The other half the crowd anxiously counting on him
thousand or so groan. and the other half cheering for him to fail.

Players reading on the bench oddly tolerated; they choose to read arcane literature:

B9: the team is so populated with geeks I have trouble finding a baseball player among the
lapfuls of slide rules and graphs. There are Statistics and World History books. Theres Max
Weber, The Medicine Wheel Way of Life, and Jacques Derrida (p. 55)
TAOF: Owen took a battery-powered reading light from his bag, clipped it to the brim of his cap,
and opened a book called The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (pp. 38-39)

Prodigys interruption of this reading is greeted with scolding:

B9: a relief pitcher reading Light In August dog-ears a page and looks up [at me], annoyed (p.
TAOF: by the sixth inning against Vermont State, Henry could barely restrain his restlessness.
Kindly desist, Owen said as Henrys knees jittered and twitched. Im trying to read (p. 39)

1) Baseball lingo, 2) describing the first pitch in a count, 3) at the exact same point in each

B9: the first one blazes in at the letters (p. 120) 77.4%
TAOF: the first pitch blazed past the inside corner (p. 402) 78.4%

The underdogs upswing:

B9: the Hill College Oaks, at the midpoint of the season, step into fourth place for the first time in
a decade. (p. 68)
TAOF: The Harpooners finished .500 for the first time in a decade. (p. 48)

Improbable slapstick on a baseball field, with character seeing no alternative:

B9: Clambering on top of the dugout, Coach Silver Duke Donnelly pulls his pants up to his
armpits (p. 112)
TAOF: there seemed to be nothing to do but descend to the front row and clamber onto the top
of the Amherst dugout (p. 457)

The Prodigys understudy fills the hole when Prodigy goes AWOL:

B9: Snooter McDougal, normally the starting second sacker, who today, in Bucky LaMars
absence, had put on a performance worthy of note at shortstop (p. 140)
TAOF: Freshperson Izzy Avila filled in more than admirably for the absent Skrimshander []
patrolling the middle of the diamond (p. 380)

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The Prodigy runs into a personal crisis; his tailspin is encapsulated by an onlooker from
the stands, the specifically to see the team fail. Both speakers relish the Prodigys demise:

B9: Evidently our star player went off the deep end. (p. 149)
TAOF: Apparently the kids lost it. (p. 316)

The big pep talk about winning the division:

B9: We have come a long way. We have fought the good fight. But its not over. We have
earned the right to represent this division in the league championship. (p. 118) 76.1%
TAOF: Weve done the work. We ran and lifted and puked our guts out. We built this program
out of nothing. We made ourselves proud to put on this uniform. We dont have a single
goddamn thing left to prove to anyone. Were proven. (p. 313) 70.0%

From underdogs perspective, arch-nemesis team described like movie/tv stars:

B9: the rest of the crew leaned off the bench wide-eyed as if waiting for the big fluffy monster
that puts everyone out of their horrific misery to get it over with already [] as the Crusaders
high-stepped to their positions to game show introductions. (p. 17)
TAOF: The Harpooners spread out near the home dugout, stretching, chatting, pretending not to
be nervous, pretending not to watch [] When their [Coshwales] fifteen minutes were up they
jogged cockily off the field. You got the sense they might come back for an encore. (p. 310)

A cocky batter daring the pitcher to throw a strike:

B9: I crouch over the plate, daring the weak-kneed hurler to lay another on my table. (p. 44)
TAOF: He crowded close to home plate, smothering it with his bulk, daring the pitcher to find a
place to throw the ball. (p. 404)

The Prodigys self-coaching, simple cases of geometry, to set up the perfect throw:

B9: For years I winged it at the plum tree in the yard, often to window-shattering acclaim. And
by the time I was a teenager, Id mastered the calculus of distance-over-armspeed and the art of
curving the ball away from the neighbors dormers. Then one early spring day like this one, after
plunking all the unripe fruit off the highest limbs, I was ready to take the legendary Thunder
Bucks at the ball toss. (p. 4) 2.6% [1739 words into the novel]
TAOF: Hed spent his life studying the way the ball came off the bat, the angles, and the spin, so
that he knew in advance whether he should break right or left, whether the ball that came at him
would bound up high or skid low to the dirt. He caught the ball cleanly, always, and made,
always, a perfect throw. (p. 9) 1.4% [1879 words into the novel]

The Prodigys impression of campus life (one in nostalgia, the other in first encounter):

B9: the music is drifting from some cuties dorm window. (p. 27)
TAOF: From an upper window somewhere drifted the sound of a violin. (p. 15)

The Prodigys first impression of his coach at the Division III school:

B9: the guy is thicker than the carnie but not much taller (p. 7)
TAOF: He was Henrys height but thick-chested [] (p. 34)

The Prodigys baseball cap:

B9: When my cap hugs my thick bronze curls, I lean at the locker face and see the faintest ripple
of flesh in the dull green paint. (p. 40)

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TAOF: Hed swapped his green Legion cap for a faded red St. Louis Cardinals one. Shaggy dust-
blond curls poked out beneath. (p. 4)

The Prodigy, excluded from baseball, uses his motor skills to entertain himself, idlyoff
the field, he puts them to use with food:

B9: I [] load the back of my spatula with a pickle slice, and flip it across the kitchen into the
waitress open mouth[] (p.16) 10.3%
TAOF: He flipped a handful of sunflower seeds into his mouth and precision-spat the splintered
shells into a little pool of Gatorade on the floor. (p. 39) 7.2%

The Prodigy about to go into the Division III teams line-up for the first time; POV
characters exasperation with being around losers:

B9: I sprawl on the end of the bench, like a husband who has had too much shopping for one
day. (p. 53)
TAOF: his tone that of a weary parent at the end of an exasperating day (pp. 44-45)

Idiosyncratic characterizations of the Prodigys manner of on-field self-expression:

B9: my war cry (p. 56) 36.1%

TAOF: war whoop (p. 199) 38.6%

Shortstops gymnastics during practice:

B9: After pointing at me, he commences a program of standing back and front flips ala Ozzie
Smith. (p. 41)
TAOF: Henry, as he jogged out to short for infield drills, spun and launched into a backflip. (p.

80s pop music stars feature in Prodigys infield chatter to his teammates as Prodigy
suddenly feels his solitude on the teama gulf between him and the rest of the players:

B9: you cant hear Cake, the ocean, or Billy Ocean. You cant hear Pink, Pink Floyd, or even a guy
named Floyd (p. 56)
TAOF: Salvador Dali Dolly Parton Pardon My French (p. 200)

Prodigy as Tarzan:

B9: swing apishly from limb to limb (p. 63)

TAOF: baboon?moving up and down in a nearby tree (p. 249)

The Great Gatsby allusion to Prodigys big throw:

B9: The eyes of T. J. Eckleburg (p. 27)

TAOF: The green light at end of Daisys dock (p.164)

The Prodigy gearing up for the once-in-a-lifetime throw:

B9: I let my sneakers hang over the edge of the curb, like my spikes had done a thousand times
on a pitchers rubber. (p. 27)
TAOF: whipped his arm sidelong across his body, just as hed practiced so many thousands of
times (p. 321)

The Prodigys difficulty talking to female lead in the get to know each other chat:

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B9: Julie Ross has me starting from the top, dragging me down a deep well (or is it a deep
unwell?), from which I shoot up like a stone in reverse. (p. 52)
TAOF: the effort required to speak was immense, like hauling stones up out of a well. (p. 350)

Prodigy in conversation with coach about quitting team (coaches office seemingly the

B9: Willies office has room for a metal desk, two chairs, and a radiator that only works in the
summer. [] Willies chair stops squeaking [] Willie leans back and checks out his office all the
way around and seems to wonder why hes never decorated it as though he were planning on
staying, no personal effects to speak of. (pp. 122-123)
TAOF: If you pretended not to know Cox and you walked into his empty office, sat in the only
visitors chair, and glanced around apprehensively, youd never guess that hed been coaching
Westish Baseball for thirteen years. He might as well have moved in yesterday. The door was
never locked. The walls were a plain industrial white, the metal schoolteachers desk a lackluster
military green. The main signs of life were a taped-up baseball schedule and wastebasket
overflowing with pinched Diet Coke cans [] in pleather desk chair []the hinges screeched.
(pp. 365-366)

Before key at-bat, Prodigy has momentary debate with his coach; the umpire expresses
curmudgeonly impatience:

B9: Can I get a batter? the umpire says in a monotone meant to remind Willie the man is paid
by the game, not the hour. (p. 105)
TAOF: Lets go son, growled the umpire. Season cant last forever. (p. 472)

Coach recruits player to give up drifting and return to school to play ball, derides recruits
current situation as prison; recruit gives sardonic reply:

B9: When I was in jail, he breathes freely, I wouldve jumped at this offer. Im not in jail,
Willie. He snorts at the second floor window next to the flashing sign. Its a bachelor pad, [I
say]. (p. 30)
TAOF: quit acting like a spic and get his ass back in school? That place is a prison, he said.
And this isnt? the coach chuckled and jerked a thumb toward the long low foundry building.
This is just a shithole, Schwartz said. (p. 104)

The Adult Offspring hiding her/his shame:

B9: I cover my eyes. I cant stop Willie from seeing me cry, but I cant [can] keep from seeing
Willie see me. (p. 126)
TAOF: her sweatshirt hood tugged up around her head like a burka. This didnt keep anyone
from seeing her, of coursebut it kept her from seeing them. (p. 396)

The Recruiter-Mentor longs for someone with whom to share his infatuation with the
Prodigys transcendent skill at shortstop:

B9: I told him dont do it, itll screw everything up. But he kept on and on, and one day while he
was gazing rapturously, nay amorously, out at shortstop I had to yell, Jesus, dude, is this whats
known as a Graterford shower-hour flashback? (p. 85)
TAOF: He looked around to see who else had been watching wanted at least the pleasure of
exchanging a glance with another enraptured witness. (p. 6)

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2. echoed lines in varying contexts:

B9: peoples always gonna believe what they wanna believe (p. 127)
TAOF: But people believed what they wanted to believe (p. 295)

B9: the sky is moist and gray as freshly-poured concrete (p. 121)
TAOF: the lake, churned-up but calm, looked like fresh-poured cement (p. 497)

B9: Youre not looking so sweet yourself there, Lou. I mean look at you[] You look terrible,
Lou, Thunder tells him (p. 43)
TAOF: Henry, she said. You look terrible. You dont look so good yourself, Henry thought (p.

B9: taking practice swings at the suns golden hum (p. 142) 91.6%
TAOF: took a few tentative swipes at the evening air (p. 472) 92.2%

B9: there is a victory celebration like no World Series ever saw (p. 70)
TAOF: they were having the victory celebration theyd seen on TV so many times (p. 406)

B9: Grimy sweat pinstripes my neck (p. 105)

TAOF: sweat and dirt streaked his face (pp. 10-11)

B9: late again: 5 for 5 (p. 5)

TAOF: to use a trite analogy, he was oh for five (p. 105)

B9: it badhopped Jerry off the heel of his glove, and skipped across his chest (p. 142)
TAOF: it hit the heel of his glove and skittered away (p. 201)

B9: he knows what to expect from the meathead hard stuff, up and in (p. 145)
TAOF: During the game, Schwartz had figured the kid was too small to hit high heat, so he called
for one fastball after another, up and in (p. 4)

B9: Tisch totters on legs too tired to get back to work, but his spikes seem to find purchase. (p.
TAOF: His back foot gouged at the dirt until it found purchase. (p. 404)

B9: Blanks skin is springing leaks all over (p. 145)

TAOF: Henry was down to his T-shirt, leaking sweat (p. 22)

B9: Thats funny? Willie grinned toothily back. Ill show you fuckin funny. (p. 8)
TAOF: Filthy? he muttered to himself, staring out toward the mound. Ill show him filthy. (p.

B9 (a lone paragraph): Uh, boy. (p. 49)

TAOF (a lone paragraph): Oh boy. (p. 277)

B9: already Im using foreign turns of phrase to describe myself (p. 102)
TAOF: turns of phrase hed never deployed (p. 255)

B9: my bowling ball bloat (p. 25)

TAOF: bowling ball shoulders (p. 195)

B9: the thick tip of your pinkie snuggled in her panty band (p. 95)
TAOF: she slid her fingers inside the flap of his boxers (p. 237)

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Addendum Bclustered oddities relating to the Father

and the football reverie
Each Prodigys desertion of his team and subsequent coming-of-age journey is brought to
resolution with an intervention by the stand-in father, who seeks out the Prodigy to deliver him
back to baseball. He finds the Prodigy in squalor, amid a mess of rotten, stinking food. A
promising athletes going into crisis and a tailspin, engaging in self-destructive behavior, is a
sports-story convention. Yet the two novels present the nadir of the tailspin in the same
tableauvisual, verbal, and olfactory:

B9, p. 27 TAOF, p. 441

I cant shake off the pain and swelling in my A dense stench, like that of a fetid locker
finger joints anymore than I am able to purge room, assailed him before he could cross the
my lungs of the rotten stench. But lounging threshold. Scattered across Henrys blond-
against sturdy metal that feels like a gym wood desk were several cylindrical plastic tubs
locker, Im not ready to surrender hope that of the kind yogurt or margarine comes in.
the warm mist is billowing out of clubhouse Dotlike fruit flies buzzed about the lidless ones.
showers (not from the wet night filtering They looked to be full of different kinds of
through braids of spaghetti Ive sprouted in my congealed soup. Affenlight shooed the flies,
garbage shanty in the alley behind Cheese picked up two of the containers, and carried
Stake). I spit out coffee grounds and an orange them toward the checkerboard-floored
rind and claw the noodles from my eyes. bathroom, intending to dump them down the

TAOFs football reverie contains audible echoes of other passages in B9:

The once-in-a-lifetime throw:
B9: batters dream. Or coachs nightmare (p. 5)
TAOF: a ship captains nightmare, a quarterbacks dream (p. 449)

The quarterback confronts his mortality:

B9: He suddenly realized he would be dead someday, and be gone forever. Between the
hashmarks I got the meaning of life that there is no meaning! (p. 26)
TAOF: Affenlight knew he was through with football, through for all time, he wouldnt
be back next year. Other things awaited[]but he no longer cared whether Cavanaugh
caught it or not and as the end arrived and his breath left him he couldnt remember or
imagine ever having cared. (p. 449)

The magical-realist take on the stadium setting:

B9: There wasnt a ripple to the sky, a spot of haze, or a pale day moon. Just blue air for
days. (p. 137)
TAOF: There was no hint of wind [] the ball arcing through blue. (p. 449)

Case 1:17-cv-06984-AKH Document 1 Filed 09/14/17 Page 40 of 43

Addendum Cclustered items of overlap that drive scenes

and plot lines
a. Male Model Mound Aces
b. Pizza Date
c. Color-tagging of the Female Lead
d. Illicit Romance
e. Prodigys AWOL

a. the ace who cares more about vanity than throwing strikes

his middle brow, which Willie had seen him Schwartz remarked [in the weight room], you
tweezing in the weight room mirror during one have the smoothest back of any man Ive ever
of Als marathon body sculpting sessions, metI just had it doneyou know?
hadnt darkened to the rest of his tanning-bed- WaxedStarblind yawned, inspected his left
orange make that apricot skin [] Al flexed biceps lateral vein in one of the rooms many
his biceps (p. 12) mirrors (pp. 30-31)

who no longer slid into bases or dove for This posed a problem for Starblind, whose
smashes, whether a game was up for grabs or extreme sensitivity to the smallest fluctuations
beyond hope. Al started coming to practice in his own attractiveness led to frequent
and games as though he were swinging by on emergency visits to his stylist. (p. 125)
the way to pick up a date. (p. 12)

his limestone teeth. (p. 47) Starblinds arctic teeth (p. 301)

When he cares more about getting laid than winning games is assaulted by team leader:

B9, 70.3% TAOF, 66.1%

I commence by pinning Al against the barn Schwartz fired his left forearm into Starblinds
with an iron clamp around his thick neck. (p. collarbone to pin him to the machine. (p. 339)

b. first date over pizza

Both novels launch into the boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back plot somewhat

conventionally: impromptu date, in both cases for pizza at an Italian eatery. After all, both male
suitors are strapped for cash (Bucky has to borrow from his roommate; Schwartz has to figure
out whether hes got a credit card with anything left to tap), so fine dining is not in order.

Each male has a history with the Italian place, and so is known to the fat old Italian lady
proprietress/hostessBucky is awkward because he hopes not to be recognized and outed as
not deaf in front of his companion; Mike awkward because Henrys not his companion tonight.

Each female lead is in the process of ending a marriage or an engagement. And this is the first
date she has taken. While somewhat neurotic herself, she psychologizes the ballplayer.

The scenes progression is close to lockstep:

off-site committed partner happens to be bearded, and to live on the West Coast;

ballplayer, apropos of nothing, gets into the fact he speaks or knows a dead languagehis
particular favorite angle of his studiesLatin for one, Greek for the other;

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Mrs. Ursiola = Mrs. Carapelliunattractive, overweight Italian woman-proprietors;

male responds to females psychoanalysis by stuffing his mouth with pizza;

secrets to hide prompts a break-out-in-a-sweat moment:

B9: Sweat beads in my hairline. (p. 77)

TAOF: Pella felt little beads of sweat forming along her hairline. (p. 139)

the nervously perspiring characters escape escape to the same place: the bathroom;

female lead focuses on the ballplayers transformative impact on fellow baseball players(s);

each male is older than his college cohort, and the female date appreciates that extra bump of

valiant eating [TAOF, p. 142] is followed promptly by Lets talk about the estranged former
love interest;

and the ballplayers roommate, it is remarked, is a profound snorerin B9, the point being
that Bucky cannot, as hes posing as a deaf person, let on that he hears it.

c. color-tagging of the female lead

The female leads in rare descriptions of their clothes, wear lilac. Pella has eggplant bags beneath
her eyes, and Julie is described as a plum:

B9: in her lilac mini and matching tights, Julie Ross is a purple plum (p. 61)
TAOF: her lilac-colored dress and eggplant bags beneath her eyes (p. 175)

In TAOF, Henry describes Pella as having a strange purply hue of hair.

The other color-tagging of the female lead: pale blue panties in the college version of the Tea-&-
Sympathy moment:

B9: powdery blue panties (p. 100) 64.5%

TAOF :snow-blue fabric and icy-blue of panties (p. 353) 68.8%

In the female leads seduction of the Prodigy, who happens to be two years younger:

B9: she clutches my wrists (p. 100)

TAOF: she grasped his wrist and guided his hand down the front of her body, toward the
icy blue (p. 353)

d. illicit romance

One conspirator in the Illicit Romance plot, in appearing to pull off the fraud that soon threatens
scandal, gets cocky with the other conspirator:

B9: Didnt carpe diem, Ms. Ross (p. 101)

TAOF: Well, carpe diem, as they say (p. 280)

Uttered to a conspirator by the only non-conspirator who is currently aware of the Illicit

B9: Have you heard the expression: Criminals want to get caught? (p. 61)
TAOF: the longing to get caught, to take credit for the crime (p. 362)

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Administrator broaching threat of scandal to conspirator in Illicit Romance:

B9: So now we have a situation (p. 128) 83.1%

TAOF: Im afraid we have a problem, Guert. (p. 437) 84.9%

College officer who is a conspirator in the brewing scandal makes surprise visit to dorm room
is hit with sensory overload (stench/loud noise). To regroup, slips into stairwell, and goes on
with his visit:

B9: slipped his slender body and monster afro into the dorm stairwell to escape the
bellowing and waited there for his heart to stop plunging (p. 31)
TAOF: he retreated to the stairwell, sucked in a breath of clean air (p. 441)

e. the Prodigys AWOL

the start of the AWOL:
B9: (in a scene distributed from the novels opening onward) the Father fails to show in
the stands; Bucky, realizing that his father is going to kill himself or may already have
done so, walks out of championship college game in the 9th inning:
that spring day of such promise when Willie Chance quietly returned to
society and I ditched the 9th inning of the most important game of my life,
putting my freshman year and all else Id ever known in the rearview [] I can
see myself back there, behind the dugout, pretending to hold my dong in a stall
of the mens bathroom, when I was actually slipping my spikes into my glove.
(p. 2)
packing your spikes neatly in your glove and turning left outside the mens
room door (p. 48)
Bucky, abandoning school and his team, is soon living in squalor.
Recruited to play for a college for the deaf, he goes undercover, using a borrowed name
and a forged transcript. He is back in baseball, but no less AWOLa cipher to his
TAOF: Henry, about to break a legendary major-league shortstops record, but having injured a
teammate with an errant throw, is unable to bring himself even to try throwing to first. He walks
off the field mid-inning:
Starblind was yelling, his mouth moving, white teeth visible, but Henry couldnt
hear him. He handed him the ball. (p. 323)
Henry unbuttoned his jersey and folded it neatly into quarters, so that the
Harpooner on the left breast faced upward. As always, he was wearing his
faded-to-pink Cardinals T-shirt underneath. He laid the jersey in his bag, placed
his glove gingerly on top, zipped the bag, and pushed it underneath the bench
between his feet. He sat back, hands on his thighs, and looked out at the field.
(p. 325)
Henry abandons baseball, going AWOL from school and his team. Soon living in squalor.
He has become a cipher to his teammates.

The Prodigy, now AWOL, runs away from it all and finds himself in baseball purgatory:
B9: But behind me is that awful, unbroken darkness and the unrelenting slurp of black
ooze (p. 97) 62.6%
TAOF: a flat, sullen expanse of awfulness (p. 343) 66.8%

B9: At my locker, I put the book in my equipment bag with the rest of my crap. I hang
my head and drink up the aromas of glove oil, yeasty socks, and a Ben Gay tube leaking

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root beer-smelling unguent, as if this were the last chance for gas before entering the
desert. Misting up, I beat the tin cage with my elbows and fists. Theres never an easy
way. There are alternatives that absolutely stink. Willies so bent on winning, he might
brush off Goodnight the way he had my chewing tobacco warning; when reality comes to
roost, hed pin his going back to the pen on my squawk to Julie, and history would repeat
except a Bucks would go with him this time. Not that hard time could be any worse
than the hard mattress in the flop room[]Equipment bag underfoot, I hang behind a
post on the platform for the next train (pp. 129-130)
TAOF: Henry sat down in front of his locker[]He, not Schwartz, had messed everything
up[]And yet every memory that popped into his head as he sat there in that
underground room thick with memories was a memory of Schwartz causing him
pain[]Schwartz had brought him here and now he was fucked{like Willie bringing
Bucky to Hill}[]Time to leave before somebody returned and found him here. He took
the stairs, slipped out a side door, headed away from campus toward downtown (pp.

He faces ambivalence when he resumes his career, in the 9th of the championship game:

B9: the only question I keep asking myself is whether Ill swing and miss to keep Willie a
free man, or swing for the fences and my teammates dreams (p. 145) 93.5%
TAOF: he didnt know what to wish for. If he didnt get to hit, it would be because Izzy
made an out and the game was over. If he did get to hit, he was toast (p. 472) 92.2%

He contemplates pitching despite the fact he is the teams shortstop:

B9: I decide Ill hurl the last half (p. 151) 97.4%
TAOF: Maybe I should volunteer, Henry thought (p. 469) 91.2%

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There was the author, Chad Harbach, who had spent a decade on a novel his friends
thought hed never finish. There was the agent, Chris Parris-Lamb, who recognized
its power. There was the editor, Little, Browns Michael Pietsch, who won it in a high-
stakes auction. With the story of one book, The Art of Fielding Keith Gessen
examines the state of the troubled, confused, and ever unpredictable world of U.S.
book publishing in the age of Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and e-readers.

MAY 23, 2014 12:45 PM

first met Chad Harbach during freshman year of college. We were both, I think, in a

I state of shock. I had come to school thinking I was a pretty sophisticated guy. In the
first few weeks I found myself in the company of people whod gone to the New
England prep schools and the Manhattan private schools; these kids really were
sophisticated. Chad, meanwhile, was from Racine, Wisconsin. He thought everyone was

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sophisticated. Our first conversation in the freshman dining hall was about how little wed
done with our lives thus far.

T. S. Eliot was 22 years old when he wrote the first Preludes, I said.


Sure, said Chad. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote This Side of Paradise during what would have
been his senior year.

And Keats!

Keats! He was 25 when he died.

We became friends. Sophomore year we took an intense, five-person seminar on Herman

Melville. Socially, Chad was shy, in almost any group of people the last to speak. In seminar
he was no different, though when he spoke it always made a lot of sense. Both of us wanted
to be writers; neither of us knew how to go about it. Chad joined the literary magazine; I
submitted some stories to it. But we both knew that the college literary magazine did not a
writer make. Chad wrote his senior thesis on William Faulkner; I wrote mine on T. S. Eliot.
We played a lot of Ping-Pong.

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After college Chad went back to Wisconsin and I moved to New York, then we both moved
back to Boston. Three years after graduation, neither of us had produced much writing to
speak of. I had started doing freelance journalism to pay the rent; Chad worked odd
copyediting and administrative jobs. It wasnt as hard to pay the bills as wed feared, but it
was hard to pay the bills and write. Wed both sworn that wed never attend an M.F.A.
program; in late 2000, we both applied to a number of them. I submitted a story about a
group of guys sitting around talking about how they want to become writers and artists,
knowing all the while that they never would; Chad submitted a long story about a college
professora college president, actuallyat a baseball game. The college president is a
Melville scholar, and he has fallen in love with one of the players. The story was written in a
more postmodern style than I had expectedChad had recently read David Foster
Wallaces Infinite Jest, and you could tellbut it was written extremely well. At a certain
point, an errant throw sails into the dugout, striking the player the college president has
fallen in love with. He rushes to the dugout to see what has happened. Chad said this was
the first chapter of a novel. Both of us were rejected by five out of six programs, and
accepted into one.

Four years later, we rented a large apartment in Brooklyn with an old friend of Chads from
Wisconsin. His indie rock band, the Gloria Record, had just broken up, and he landed with
us in New York. He found work waiting tables. Another friend of ours, a writer, had helped
Chad find work as a copy editor for McKinsey, the management-consulting giant. I had gone
back to freelance journalism. Intermittently I wrote my stories about young men who
wanted to be writers; Chad intermittently worked on his novel about the college president
and the baseball team. A year before we moved to Brooklyn we had started a literary
magazine called n+1 with some friends. This now took up a lot of our time.

In early 2006, to get ourselves writing again, we set up a small workshop with two friends.
We would meet once a month at Rebecca Curtiss place in Park Slope and read one anothers
stories. Becky was the most accomplished writer among usshe had already published in
Harpers and The New Yorkerand yet she never failed to make gluten-free cookies for our
meetings. (They were free of lots of things, says Chad when I ask him to confirm this
memory.) The workshop lasted only about six months, but it was my first chance to read

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Chads novel since back when we were applying to writing programs. It had changed a lot;
the writing had become more direct, less fancy, and the focus of the story had shifted away
from the college president and toward the source of the errant throw, a young shortstop
named Henry Skrimshander, a prodigy and baseball genius, who until that throw had never
made an error. In the aftermath of the bad throw (which puts his teammate in the hospital),
he finds he can no longer get the ball to first. The team goes into a tailspin. The portion we
read was about 250 pages. It was good, but it also struck me as a little light. So the shortstop
couldnt make a throw to first. So? I didnt say this at the time, but it felt a little like a Disney
film. (The Bad News Bears go to liberal-arts college.) I was surprised that my friend had
spent five years working on something so insubstantial. On the other hand, he was doing a
lot of other interesting stuff. Our magazine, n+1, was doing better than wed ever expected,
and Chad, in addition to editing pieces, organizing parties, and proofreading the whole
thing, had become our conscience on the question of global warming. For about two years it
was all he could read or talk about. Global warming and baseball. I had never seen Chad so
angry about something.

So, anyway, we lived in Brooklyn. In 2005, our friend and co-editor, Benjamin Kunkel,
published his first novel, Indecision, with Random House. In 2007, Becky Curtis published
her book of stories, Twenty Grand, with Harper Perennial. In 2008, I finally published my
book about young people who wanted to be writers, All the Sad Young Literary Men. Chad,
meanwhile, was still writing his novel. Back home, his father, the head accountant at a
trucking company in Kenosha, lost his job after the recession hit. Chad had earned $25,000
in 2007 and was getting less and less work from McKinsey, which had in any case moved
much of his department to a tech center outside New Delhi.

Beginning to Worry

ew York is a company town with several mostly non-overlapping companies. If

N youre in publishing, you dont meet that many people from finance, and if youre
in the art world, you dont meet that many white-shoe lawyers unless theyre
buying art. In fact, the worlds are even more segregated than thatwriters dont know that
many artists, bankers dont know that many lawyers. Each of the circles is large enough on
its own and has neither need nor time for any of the others.

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Our circle was publishing and academia. We knew a lot of magazine and book editors, grad
students, literary agents, and writers. (These were all print writers. Internet writers and
entrepreneurs had their own circle.) The agents were gloomy about the state of publishing,
and the editors were gloomier. There were, as they explained it, several forces at work. The
first was Barnes & Noble, which since the early 1990s had managed to open more than 700
superstores across the United States. The stores were gigantic. No one had ever sold so
many books. Barnes & Noble became bigger than any individual publisher, a lot bigger, and
started dictating its termsgreater discounts, more flexibility on returning merchandise.
For small publishers, these policies could be ruinous. Meanwhile, over the years, as the book
business had become more profitable, and more cutthroat, the publishers were swallowed
one by one by large multi-national conglomerates. Periodically a German person would
arrive in town and fire everyone. It made the editors uneasy.

Then came Amazon. Barnes & Noble had been the biggest, baddest bookseller in the history
of the world. Amazon was bigger and badder. First it came for the used-book storesit
simply became too easy to find an old book for $.01, plus shipping, in about 30 seconds
online, rather than hunting for it in the back of Joes Old Books. As Amazon kept
expandingit surpassed Barnes & Noble as the worlds largest overall seller of books toward
the end of the last decadeindependent stores began to close. The large chains began to
look vulnerable. And in 2007, Amazon launched an e-reader. At first this seemed funny,
nerdy, unrealisticWhat about reading in the bath? people wonderedbut Amazon
wasnt laughing. What exactly this would mean for the traditional publishers no one could
say, but it made them more uneasy than they already were, and talking in a reassuring
manner had never been Amazons strong suit. Its important to embrace new technologies
instead of to fight them, Amazons hyper-nerdy C.E.O., Jeff Bezos, told Charlie Rose when
he came on to announce the Kindle. And everything evolves. Charlie Rose was impressed.
This is amazing, he said, holding the Kindle. It says previous page. Previous page is
here, if you want to go back to the previous page.

n short, our publishing friends were nervous. But we, on the writer side, were

I confused. Everyone was so gloomy and pessimistic, and yet periodically the publishers
took us out to lavish lunches, and once in a while our friends would receive what
seemed to us like huge advances. I got $160,000 for All the Sad Young Literary Men! My
girlfriend, Emily Gould, also a writer, got $200,000 for a book of memoiristic essays. Our

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friend Jon-Jon Goulian, an idiosyncratic and gregarious young man who often wore a skirt
to parties and also happened to be the grandson of the philosopher Sidney Hook, got
$750,000 for his memoir of cross-dressing. These advances were always smaller than they
sounded, representing as they often did years of work, and sometimes they were laughably
small. Our friend Elif Batuman got just $7,000 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an
extraordinary book of essays about Russian literature. My co-translator and I, plus the great
Russian writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, received $10,000, total, for a collection of her
scary fairy tales.

Still, if publishing was in all the trouble wed been led to believe it was in by our doom-and-
gloom friends, where was all this money coming from? Were they suckers? Maybe they were
suckers, but at least they still had jobs, at least for the most part. Chad no longer had a job,
and I was beginning to worry. I knew he was going back and re-writing the early sections of
his book. And I knew from my own experience that this was dangerous. One changes, as a
writer, fairly quickly; what you wrote six months or a year ago might not sound right
anymore. With a long noveland Chad said his novel was now up to 175,000 words, or
about 600 pagesit might take six months or a year to go through and re-write the whole
thing to your satisfaction. By then youd have changed again and want to start re-writing the
beginning. The book could begin to swallow itself. And Chad had run out of money. For
years he had been ignoring his student loans, and in our Brooklyn apartment we could no
longer answer our landline, because the collection agencies now called so often. Without
having seen the book, I began to urge him to just send it out to agents and see what
happened. The truth is I wasnt confident anyone would want it; I thought Chad should
move on to his next novel, or something else entirely.

he saving grace would seem to have been that we knew so many people. In mid-

T 2009, Chad said he was 90 percent done with the novel. Word of this soon reached
Elyse Cheney, the agent of one of our n+1 co-editors, who called him on the phone
and asked to see what he had. Cheney is, unquestionably, one of the better agents in New
York (though she had, a few years earlier, rejected my book), and Chad sent her his novel.
Cheney took a while to respond. With each day that passed, the hope that shed be excited by
the book diminished. As of today I declare it, Chad wrote me in a g-chat 10 days in. Elyse
is in my head! Finally Cheney wrote back, and Chad sent me a short e-mail with the subject
heading List of Writers Dissed by Elyse. The e-mail read: You. Me.

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Chad then sent the novel to my agency, also very highly regarded. They turned it down,
politely, saying they admired the book but did not feel they were the right people to
represent it. All right. To hell with the agents! We would sell the thing to the publishers
directly. I happened to run into a senior editor from one of the major houses. I told him that
Chad Harbach, whom he knew, had finally finished the novel hed worked 10 years on. The
editor suggested self-publication. A lot of writers are doing that now, he said. Its a good
way to build a brand. This was a brave and even legendary literary editor. But publishers
werent feeling very well just then.

In late 2009, Chad asked me to read the novel. I printed it out at the n+1 office, in Brooklyn.
Even single-spaced and double-sided, it took up 300 printed sheets. I read it over a
weekend, and Emily, who had come to love quiet, self-effacing Chad, read it behind me,
taking the pages when I was done with them, sometimes sighing impatiently because I was
taking too long. The basic architecture of the novel was the same as when Id read it three
years earlier: A skinny young shortstop named Henry arrives at Westish College to play
baseball. The teams catcher, a hairy, burly football player named Mike Schwartz, takes him
under his wing. Henrys roommate is a brilliant black student named Owen, who is gay. The
president of the college, after a lifetime of lighthearted heterosexual philandering, falls in
love with Owen. Meanwhile, the presidents wayward daughter, after years of estrangement,
moves back in with him. Henry, after an unprecedented streak of fieldingso impressive
that he begins to be looked at by pro scoutshits Owen in the face with an errant throw,
putting Owen in the hospital, and afterward he cant get the ball out of his glove to throw it
to first. As before, the team goes into a tailspin. Henry goes into a depression. The president
of the college fears telling his daughter about his affair.

Most of this had been in the book before, but in the past three years it had also been
transformed. The relationships had taken on a depth that they hadnt previously had; the
story of the throw and its aftermath had acquired a kind of resonance that would have been
hard to anticipate in the early versions. This was no longer a Disney movie. Henrys
confusion upon arriving at Westish, where everyone seemed to know so well what they are
doing and where they are going, and he alone lost among them; Mike Schwartzs
disappointment at his own limitations, and the channeling of his energies into Henrys
career; the college presidents secret; and the emergence of his daughter, Pella, as one of the
most interesting characters in the novel, the pivot on which the whole thing turnsit was

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like watching that guy who used to paint things on PBS, where hed start with a few greenish
brushstrokes and then before you knew it there was a tree. I mean, it was a little bit like that,
but mostly it was just entirely engrossing and amazing. There was a whole world here, and it
was very moving, and very generous, and humane. It was impossible to dislike and it was
hard to put down. Two-thirds of the way through, Emily looked up and said, Whats a

This seemed to be the sort of thing readers could really like. It also seemed to be the sort of
thing publishers would really like. Were the agents blind? Had they even read the book? It
was impossible to tell. Chad sent it to three more agents. They all said no. Then Chad sent
the book to a 27-year-old agent named Chris Parris-Lamb.

The Apprentice

hris Parris-Lamb is well over six feet tall, with sharp, aquiline features and neat

C black hair. He grew up in North Carolina and was an outstanding pitcher on his
high-school baseball team, and he had hoped to play for the club team at U.N.C.
Chapel Hill. Im a pitcher and I throw 80; I think I can make the club team, he says. I
show up, were in the tryouts, and theres a left-handed kid from, like, downstate eastern
North Carolina, a farm-raised kid. I dont know what he was doing at U.N.C.I mean, I do
know; hed chosen his education over going to a tiny school to play baseball. He was a lefty
who threw in the low 80s. And I got cut; I did not make the club team.

Parris-Lamb studied English and history and hoped to become a writer, but then, in his
sophomore year, he read David Foster Wallaces Infinite Jest. I read that and realized, If
therere guys doing stuff like this, thats not me. I cant do that. But then I thought: Someone
edited that book. Someone agented that book. I can do that. I can still be a part of this. That
summer, he had a very productive and enjoyable internship at the Burnes & Clegg literary
agency, in New York, and when he graduated, in 2004, he moved to the city to start as an
assistant and launch himself on the waters of publishing.

It turned out not to be a good moment. The co-owner of the agency, Bill Clegg, was in the
throes of an addiction to crack cocaine. He was not coming into the office or keeping up with
clients. As he would later reveal in his tell-all memoir, published by Little, Brown in 2010,

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he was instead holed up in various hotel rooms, strangers apartments, and even a random
taxicab smoking crack, having sex, and drinking prodigious amounts of vodka. Cleggs
detailed memoir does not mention that while this was going on his partner, Sarah Burnes,
was pregnant, nor that two assistants were holding down the fort, one of whom was a 23-
year-old recent college graduate named Chris. Parris-Lamb did his best to cover for Clegg.
He and Burnes had been advised that they could not tell clients what was happening with
Clegg; they could say only that they didnt know where he was or when hed be
backalthough Id found a crack pipe in the office, says Parris-Lamb. I remember Nicole
Krauss calling. This was right before the publication of The History of Love, her breakout
second novel. Nicole said, Chris, please tell me whats happening with Bill. And I said,
Nicole, all I can tell you is that I dont know where he is, and I dont know when hes coming

Parris-Lamb and Burnes were able to wind down the business, and then took what authors
they could to another agency, the Gernert Company. Parris-Lamb thought of quitting and
moving back to North Carolina, but first he had to help Burnes, who was now late in her
pregnancy, with the transition. For several months after the move he was still dealing with
the fallout from Clegg, but gradually he started selling books. The first one he took on was a
debut novel called Mudbound, by a writer from the South named Hillary Jordan. Parris-
Lamb loved the book but couldnt get anyone in New York to take it; eventually he sold it to
Algonquin Books, a small literary imprint in North Carolina. His next book was a fine
political novel, The White King, by a young Hungarian writer named Gyrgy Dragomn.
Shortly after Parris-Lamb sold it, the publishervenerable Houghton Mifflin, publisher of,
among others, Philip Roth and a whole mess of textbookswas bought by a curious Irish
outfit called Riverdeep. Its conceivable that the people doing the deal didnt even know
that Houghton Mifflin published Philip Roth, says Parris-Lamb. They were like, Look at
what these guys make on calculus textbooks! A re-structuring followed. Three months
before the publication of The White King, nearly everyone involved with it was laid off; the
book tanked. The next book Parris-Lamb sold was by a young female sportswriter for The
Village Voice. She had just started at the Voice, and the idea was that shed produce an
account of her year covering the New York Mets and the Yankeeswhat it was like to be a
female in the locker room, what the players were like, and so on. Just weeks after the book
was sold to Random House there was a reshuffling at the Voice. The editor in chief, David
Blum, was let go, and shortly thereafter so was Parris-Lambs writer. She lost her press pass

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and with it her access to the locker rooms. The book had to be reconceived as an essay
collection. It also tanked.

Parris-Lamb soldiered on and soon earned a reputation as an uncommonly discerning

agent. Mudbound did well for Algonquin, and in the next five years, of the 35 books he took
on, Parris-Lamb sold 34 of thema remarkable record.

Dear Chad . . .

he life of an agent is a mixture of reading, schmoozing, arguing with publishers for

T better treatment of authors, and, occasionally, playing publishers off one another
in order to get the highest price for a book. The schmoozing part is important
because the agent needs to know which editors at a publishing house he can approach with
which kinds of projectsthat is, which editors are interested in sports, which editors are
interested in World War II, which editors are interested in memoirs about cooking. The
agent in turn needs to introduce himself to editors, so they know the agent is not, for
example, an idiot. But the reading part is more important. A good agent spends a lot of time
reading the better literary magazines, looking for talent and developing projects with
writers; he will also spend a certain amount of time reading his slush pileall the
unsolicited manuscripts and proposals coming in. Publishers tend to complain about agents
pushing up advances, but they also rely on them to be the first line of defense against the
absolutely unmanageable mass of submissions. Publishers used to employ readers to deal
with the submissions; that function has been taken over by agents. But the agents, too,
cannot keep up. Parris-Lamb says he gets about 70 queries and submissions per week. He
reads all the cover letters, but it would be impossible to read all the submissions, many of
which are whole books. Honestly, he says, I judge writers on how they write queries. If
youre a good writer, youre a good writer. And if not, then not.

Parris-Lamb says he was charmed though also slightly befuddled by the cover letter Chad
sent with his submission. It made the novel sound like a comedy of manners. It prepared
me for a somewhat different reading experience than the one I ended up having. In any
case, he printed the manuscript out and took it with him on a weekend business trip to an
M.F.A. program. This is something M.F.A. programs sometimes dothey spring for a few
literary agents and editors to fly in from New York and give a talk about the publishing
industry, then read some stories or chapters by M.F.A. students and give them pointers. Its

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a working weekend, and it was the first time Parris-Lamb had gone on such a trip. It was a
very disheartening experience of reading really bad writing by M.F.A. students. I was feeling
really down after, like, I want a good novel, but Ill never find one. On the plane ride home,
Parris-Lamb took out Chads submission and started reading.

My initial impression was like, Wow, I cant believe how much baseball is in this. I couldnt
believe it. I was like, This is an n+1 guy? Due to an essay by one of our co-editors in the first
issue denouncing exercise, n+1 had developed a reputation as anti-sports. I mean I never
really met you guys before. I was like, I cant believe somebody this good knows this much
about baseball. By the time Parris-Lamb got off the plane he was a good ways through the
book and very worried. When I began the book, I thought, This mustve already been
passed on by other agents. Like surely Im not at the top of Chads list. But when I got
halfway through I was like, Holy shit, theres no way anybodys passed on this. Back in New
York he wrote to Chad:

Dear Chad,

I dont usually send emails like this before Ive finished, but I dont usually respond this
strongly to the opening chunk of a novel, eitherIve got another 250 pages to go in THE
ART OF FIELDING, so I just wanted to let you know that I would be in touch soon (I may
need the weekendbut I am hereby setting myself a deadline of Monday at the latest to
finish and respond), and ask you to please not make any moves before Ive had a chance to
finish! And if you do need to hear from me before the weekend because other agents have
responded more quickly, let me know and Ill do whatever it takes to make that happen. I
guess I should say that I dont mean this to be any sort of committal response, because its
possible that my feelings could change in the next 250 pages (I wouldnt expect youd want a
commitment from an agent who hadnt finished your book anyway) . . . But then again Id
rather take that risk than not register my enthusiasm for what Ive read so far and risk losing
out to someone who moved with more alacrity. So, more soon



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Parris-Lamb then read to the end of the book; his feelings about it didnt change. If
anything, he was more devoted to it than before. He was also convinced that he was up
against the best agents in New York: I was thinking, How am I going to get Chad to pick me
over these other people who must also have it? I wanted to call him, but I couldnt, so I just
wrote himI just poured my heart out in this e-mail. Here is what he said:

This is the hoariest clich an agent or editor can offer, so youll have to forgive me for lacking
novelty, but I loved this book in a way that reminded me of why I got into this business.
Watching this novel unfold, I felt like Mike Schwartz at that field in Peoria when he first
discovered Henry, and I saw something of myself in 22 year old Schwartzy at the end of the
novel, too: those who cant (or can no longer) do, coach; those who love books, but whose
appreciation for what it takes to write great ones makes them all the more aware that theyll
never have what it takeswell, we go into publishing. And we hope that well one day have the
chance to actually work with books that make us feel like the ones we read back before reading
was a job.

I can only imagine what kind of competition Im up against to represent you, and Im going
to do everything I can to convince you that I should be your agent. It will hurt, to be sure, if
it turns out that I wont be, but I wont love this novel any less because I dont get to sell it,
so I want to go ahead and thank you for the chance to have been one of the first people to
read it, wherever things go from hereI can only imagine how long a novel this finely
crafted must have gestated, and its a privilege to have read it so soon upon entering the
world (to belabor that natal metaphor). That said, if youll give me the chance, Im going to
work like hell to see that it gets the publication, and reception, and readership it deserves.
Books like THE ART OF FIELDING, and writers of your caliber, dont come around very
often; in the final reckoning, agents are ultimately only as good as the books they represent,
and youre giving someone a shot here to be the best.

Parris-Lamb then waited for Chads response. He would later describe the amount of time
that went by as days. In fact, it was less than 24 hours. On the other hand, it was more
than an hour, and for Parris-Lamb it was excruciating. He was certain that Chad had gone
with some faster, older, more powerful agent. Finally, Chad wrote back to say that he was
grateful for the e-mail and that hed be happy to meet.

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Parris-Lamb took Chad out to lunch at Craftbar, an elegant eatery just off Union Square.
Lunch cost $92, about what Chad had in his bank account. Parris-Lamb still didnt know
whether Chad was considering other agents. Chads quiet. I had no idea how I was doing. I
was thinking, Have you had 10 of these lunches already? I could not get a read on him at
all. (A year and a half later, I was the one who told him that every other agent whod seen it,
including his former boss Bill Clegg, had turned the book down; I asked him what he
thought of that. I think thats crazy, Parris-Lamb said. But I guess thats how it should
bethats how I know Im the right person. I think someone would have to be crazy not to
like this book.) When the time came for Chad to ask some questions of Parris-Lamb, he
asked just one. Whom would he send the book to? Parris-Lamb was ready for that. Michael
Pietsch and Jonathan Galassi, he said.

Publishers as Investment Banks

hen Chad and I were living in Prospect Heights, we kept very different

W schedules: Chad would go to sleep early and be up by seven; I would rise late
and stay up until two or three. I used to spend the late portion of many
evenings in the gigantic Tea Lounge on Union Street in Park Slope, along with a few dozen
other people perched over their laptops and the occasional Orthodox Jewish couple on a
date. Eventually I noticed a woman who was there pretty much every time I went in, and
probably a lot of the times I didnt, usually until midnight, with what were obviously
manuscript pages, reading and reading. She did not look particularly happy to be doing this.
I now realize she was an acquiring editor, reading submissions.

There are several levels of editor at a publishing house. There are assistant editors, who deal
with minutiae such as line edits, editorial correspondence, and press quotes for the
paperback edition of a book. And there are very senior editors, who have graduated to
managerial rolesthey are no longer very much on the lookout for new book projects,
having their hands full running the publishing house. But the editors in between, which is
most editors, are acquiring editors. Like agents, and for the same reason, they need to eat a
certain number of lunches, introducing themselves and their tastes and interests to those
agents so that they will receive their best submissions when the time comes. Some editors,
like agents, read the better literary magazines; many young writers have received
encouraging notes from Tim Duggan at HarperCollins, one of the savviest editors in the
business, after publishing a short story in some obscure but well-regarded venue. Some

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leave this kind of scouting to the agents. All acquiring editors, however, spend an inordinate
amount of time reading submissions. They get perhaps 10 agented submissions a
weekmeaning someone in the industry has staked his reputation on this being something
the editor will like; receive enough bad submissions from an agent and you will stop reading
submissions from that agentand they must read them quickly. Like Parris-Lamb and the
other agents he thought he might be up against, editors have no way of knowing who else
has the book on submission or what the other editors might be willing to do. And if they
want to bid for a book, they need to get a certain number of other people in the company to

In a sense the publishers function a lot like investment banksalbeit very scrupulous
investment banks in which five or six people have to read an entire novel before the bank
puts down any money. Young editors have to get their bosss go-ahead for even the tiniest,
$5,000 advance, and whereas at some houses the very senior people dont technically need
to go to their corporate superiors unless theyve gone over some established level, for the
most part they still do. As one former editor in chief put it to me, Even if you dont need to
get permission from the publisher to spend $400,000, if all it takes is a walk down the hall,
why not do it? Of course before you go to the very top, you may want to run it by your
assistant, to make sure you havent lost your mind; you may want to run it by someone in
sales, since theyre going to have to sell this thing to booksellers. At some houses the editor
of the paperback division needs to read the submission; and why not show it to your spouse,
whose judgment in other matters has been sound? And so in addition to lots of reading, the
life of an editor involves constantly trying to get others to read as well. This makes sense,
since eventually, if the book gets bought, the publishing house has to convince a whole lot of
other people to read it, too. If you can get your house to back you, then you put in a bid.
Other publishers put in competing bids. An auction ensues. In recent years, as publishers
have grown larger and acquired or created more sub-units (or imprints), you may even
find yourself bidding against someone from the same company, although for the most part
this practice has ended and been replaced with what is known as a bidding war plus beauty
contestthe publishing house presents a unified bid during the auction (bidding war) and,
if that bid wins, the various imprints meet with the author to try to impress him (beauty

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A s for how much money you ought really to plunk down on a book, there are some
guides you can use. Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales of individual books at
about three-quarters of the bookselling cash registers across the country, can tell you how
much an authors last book soldthis is her sales track, and it gives you some idea of how
well her next book might sell. But it can be the wrong idea: Emma Donoghue had published
six novels before her 2010 Room, the two most recent of which BookScan at 1,852 and
1,119 copies, respectively, in hardcover in the U.S. Room has sold more than half a million in
hardcover and digital and is still going. If its the writers first book, and she has no sales
track, you can come up with similar-seeming books (comp titles) and see how many copies
they sold. But this is precision masquerading as insight. No two books are the same book,
and no two authors are the same author. The fact is: no one has any idea how many copies
of a book will sell.

There is a certain amount of politics involved within a houseif you are a jerk and people
dont like you, they probably wont like the books you ask them to read, and they wont do
their best design work for you, and they wont go out and sell the book with all the fervor
they can musterbut in the end an editor is judged by the books she edits. And these, in the
end, are judged by their sales. Critical acclaim is great, and in the long term, in fact, it sells
books better than anything else, but sometimes its worthwhile to publish a cookbook, or a
mystery novel by a Swede. Even an editor like Gerald Howard, of Doubleday, who is known
for his literary discernment (he was the first editor of David Foster Wallace), publishes the
best-selling Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club; even Drenka Willen, of Harcourt, who
seems to work exclusively with Nobel Prize winners, has a Norwegian mystery writer in her

In short, books and their sales are the currency of the realm, and they are the path upward.
If youre a junior editor, you need to make one good callprobably on a small, paperback-
only book, since youre not really in a position to bid on a hardcover that could become a
best-sellerto get promoted to a full editorship. This may mean a book that does much
better than expected, or a book that receives very good reviews, or a book that wins a prize.
Once promoted, you need to prove you can produce for the house. This could mean finding
the one author who is going to stick with you and consistently make money. You see these
people at Knopf, one agent told me, and they never buy any booksthey never do
anything. You think, Why are they still drawing a salary? And then you find out they bought
Anne Rice or someone in, like, 1982. Those editors have tenure. Or it could mean

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consistently picking winners, which is hard. Most books lose money. Daniel Menaker,
formerly of Random House, and before that, The New Yorker, compared it to gambling.
You put your money down and most of the time you lose. But when you win, you can win
big. Its like going to Mohegan Sun. Some people really have a knack for it and get
promoted up and up. Anyone with the money can buy a memoir by Bill Clinton in 2001; the
trick is buying the memoir by Barack Obama in 1990. Menaker used the example of Reading
Lolita in Tehran. Reading what where? he says. What the fuck is this? This isnt Lose 20
Pounds in 20 Days. Its by an obscure foreigner, about a foreign country. Whos going to
read this? But the book, bought by Random House for $30,000 for world rights in 1999,
was chosen by Borders as an Original Voices selection, sold very well in hardcover, and then
sold ridiculously well (over a million copies) in paperback, for a profit in excess of $10
million, give or take. This was a sharp-eyed move by a young editor. Other people find that
they do not have the knack and leave the business (or get fired). Some others may leave
because they are underappreciated. A friend of mine who is a young editor told me
indignantly that the editor of last years Sht My Dad Says* left HarperCollins recently to
work for Scribd.com in part because she hadnt received a promotion for Sht.*

You say that like she edited Ulysses, I said.

I dont care! said my friend. It was a No. 1 best-seller!

A Tyro Editor

ichael Pietsch grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of an army officer. He had

M six brothers and sisters. In the early 1970s, as part of the forced integration
mandated by Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, he was
bused to mostly black Booker T. Washington High School. Five feet ten and skinny, Pietsch
nonetheless managed to become a captain of the football team. In 1974, he went to Harvard,
the only one of his siblings to go out of state for college. He didnt feel as if he exactly fit in
there. Everyone had on these khaki pants and shirts with alligators on them, he said. I felt
like theyd all been handed a manual that Id missed somehow. Pietsch played a lot of Ping-
Pong in the basement of Adams House. He graduated with a degree in English; his senior
thesis was called Chaucer and Boethius: The Christian Implications of Two Methods of
Portraiture in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. Pietsch briefly considered
going to law school, but he had such a good time interning his senior year at David R.

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Godine, a Boston publisher, that upon graduating he took a job there before eventually
moving to New York to become an assistant at the Scribner publishing house, which at the
time was still owned and run by Charles Scribner Jr. Pietsch worked on self-help books,
how-to-build-things books, military histories. I did what editors do. Eventually he began
acquiring novels. His first acquisition was a mystery novel; his second was Meditations in
Green, a novel about the Vietnam War by a veteran named Stephen Wright. Pietsch read it
slowly as it came in and eventually concluded it was the best account of the war he had seen.
But it wasnt an easy sell. Scribner was a very fusty company that was really living on their
backlist, Pietsch says. They had Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, and Wharton!everything
else was seen as a risk. Hed been working on the manuscript awhile, unable to get his
boss interested. One day Mr. Scribner was walking through the floor saying, Anybody have
anything they need me to read? And I put it in his hands. He recognized it right away.

When someone allows you to spend their money, says Pietsch, to pass their money along
to a writer whose work you think is good so that writer can earn a living? That is an
extraordinary trust. To have someone let you do thatits an amazing thing.

Pietsch worked at Scribner for six years. His most visible project came when Mr. Scribner
needed someone to edit a Hemingway manuscript that had been sitting in his drawer for
many years. It was an account of a trip to Spain that Hemingway had taken late in his life to
watch the bullfights for a summer. He was on assignment for Life but ended up producing a
book-length manuscript. The Life excerpts had been badly received, however, and shortly
thereafter Hemingway killed himself. Charles Scribner Jr. had periodically tried turning the
manuscript into a book, but never to his satisfaction.

Mr. Scribner appeared in my office one day with this big old manuscript and the three old
magazines and said read these, indicating the magazines, and read this, indicating the
manuscript, and tell me if you think theres a better book in here than in these. Pietsch
read through the manuscript and began to understand the problem with the Life articles.
What had happened was that three excerpts from different pieces of this memoir had been
taken, entire, untouched within themselves, with no editing, no continuity. They just didnt
make any sense. I could see why they were badly received.

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And then I read this book. It was a beautiful book, with a strong central story. It was really
lovely. The writing was glorious. The editing was very easy. There were passages that just fell
out really cleanly, and then this strong central line.

Pietsch speaks quietly and thoughtfully. He is the head of a very large business division and
possibly the most humble person Ive ever met. This is just an example of it; when he
described the editing process on the Hemingway book, it sounded as if hed cut a few
paragraphs here and there. In fact, as I learned later, he had cut the manuscript down by
more than half. The Dangerous Summer became a best-seller; book-review editors sent
correspondents to the John F. Kennedy library, in Boston, which housed the original
manuscript, to compare the final version to it; Pietsch was not yet 30 years old. He was a
tyro editor, Charles Scribner Jr. recalled in his memoirs, who did a splendid job. In 1984,
Mr. Scribner sold the family firm to Macmillan for $15 million; Pietsch left for Harmony
Books, a division of Crown, where he acquired literary fiction, including the work of Martin
Amis, and popular music titles, including Chuck Berrys autobiography. In 1991, he went to
Little, Brown, which was having trouble transforming itself from a venerable old Boston
publisher into a modern New York publisher that could make big books rather than
continue to live off The Catcher in the Rye, which it had published 40 years earlier.

The Top of the List

ate last year I found myself sitting on a transatlantic flight next to an older

L gentleman who was clearly reading submissions. A literary agent, I decided, and I
was right. His name was Laurence Kirshbaum. Before becoming an agent he had
been the C.E.O. and chairman of the Time Warner Book Group, which had acquired Little,
Brown in 1968. The smartest thing I ever did was put Michael Pietsch in charge there,
Kirshbaum told me. He had left in 2005 to found his own literary agency, just before Time
Warner sold its entire books division to the French publisher Hachette.

Kirshbaum started in publishing in the early 70s. Hed graduated from the University of
Michigan in 1966, worked for a few years as a reporter for Newsweek, co-wrote a bookIs
the Library Burning?about student protests, and then went to work for Random House as
a salesman in 1970. He went door-to-door in New Jersey persuading drugstores, small
groceries, and gift shops to take some books. This was called opening accounts. In 1974, he
moved to Warner Books and rose through the marketing end of the business to eventually

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become publisher, in 1985. He worked with businesspeople like Jack Welch and Michael
Eisner on their memoirs. Hed had a great time. Theres no feeling in the world like getting
to the top of the list, he said, meaning the best-seller list. Maybe Michigan winning the
Rose Bowl, he added, recalling his allegiance to the Wolverines. And having a grandchild.

I personally was so used to sad stories about publishers losing money all the time that I
asked, incredulously, So they make money?

Kirshbaum laughed. You bet they do!

Its hard for writers to believe, but publishing is a big business. Its not the oil business or
the auto business or even the cell-phone business, but total book sales in the United States
last year were $13.9 billionand twice that if you include textbooks and other educational
materials. Random House, the biggest of the so-called Big Six publishers, brings in about
$2.5 billion a year in revenue; Hachette Book Group, at the smaller end of the Big Six, brings
in about $700 million. Michael Pietschs Little, Brown, which sold 21 million books in 2010,
accounted for more than a quarter of that. The vast majority of publishers revenue (100
percent, in the case of Little, Brown) is from the sale of books and subsidiary rights to books;
for the moment, publishers really have no other way to make money. They sell books. And
they do make money. Thats the point of publishing. When you are an editor, either your
books sell copies and make money or they do not. And the fact of the matter is that, if they
are not making money now, its unlikely (though not impossible) that they will make money
in the future. People remember the exceptions, says Pietsch. They remember Faulkner,
who was, famously, out of print when Malcolm Cowley brought out The Portable Faulkner,
with Viking, in 1946. They remember Moby Dick. But if you look at the books that are
backlist classics now, they were almost invariably best-sellers when they were new. The
Catcher in the Rye. The Sun Also Rises. The Great Gatsby. These books were not discovered
by the academy over centuries. They were sensations! Even Virginia Woolf was a best-seller
in the U.S. during her lifetime. So a publisher is very strongly motivated to make their new
books as successful as they can.

ublishing houses appear to be giant monoliths. In fact, in the end, they are the sum

P total of the judgment and taste of their individual editorscurrent editors, who buy
the new books, and past editors, who created the backlist. Of course there are
constraints. When Pietsch was at Scribner, the house was on the wane; at his next job he

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worked for an imprint that did not have a reputation for publishing fiction. In many ways
this determined what he was able to publish. When as an editor youre not known, at places
that arent known, for publishing fiction, what you get submitted to you is stuff that
everyone else has passed on, Pietsch says. I ended up publishing a lot of dark, very difficult
books, because that was the best stuff that was submitted to me. And I love those books. But
I love straightforward, traditional books, too.

At Little, Brown, Pietsch was able to publish writers like Anita Shreve (The Pilots Wife,
Oprahs Book Club selection, March 1999) and Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones, 7.5 million
copies sold); the humorist David Sedaris and the mega-best-selling thriller writer James
Patterson; and more difficult writers, too. In 1992, Pietsch acquired and in 1996 published
David Foster Wallaces magnum opus, Infinite Jest. Thirteen years later, after Wallace
committed suicide, Pietsch went to Wallaces home in California and began the work of
piecing together the fragments of his last novel, The Pale King.

The Auction

s promised, Parris-Lamb sent out The Art of Fielding to Jonathan Galassi and

A Michael Pietsch simultaneously, on a Friday in early February 2010. Galassi was a

key player in the drama that followed: a respected editor, poet, and translator, he
had been the publisher of F.S.G. since 1999, during which time hed published Jonathan
Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Marilynne Robinson, and many, many others. He had also, in
late middle age, come out as gay. The main question with Galassi was whether, as one of the
industrys premier editors, he would find this first novel to have literary worth. Another
question was whether he would find the midlife coming-out story of President Affenlight

Galassi contacted Parris-Lamb on Saturday afternoon. He had read the entire manuscript in
just over a day and found it extraordinary. He wanted to meet with Chad. On Tuesday
morning they met, and that afternoon Galassi made what is known as a pre-empthe
offered $175,000 for world rights to the book. A pre-empt is, essentially, an offer that is
meant to be so good that the writer cannot refuse it. It is usually final. In this case the
amount of money was not overwhelming (even if it equaled Chads total earnings over the
past seven years), but it was pretty good, and it was from F.S.G.

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Chad and Chris thought about it for a daythey thought about it hardand consulted with
others. I thought they should take the offer. Another friend of ours, an editor at a large
commercial house, thought otherwise, though Chad could not disclose the pre-empt amount
to her. Youve been working on this book for 10 years, she said. Unless its Jon-Jon
money, I say take it out to others and see what you can get. Jon-Jon, of course, was Jon-
Jon Goulian, who had gotten $750,000 from Random House. After a sleepless night, Chad
decided to take his chances. He and Chris declined the pre-empt.

What followed was a dizzying week of meetings with the major publishers. Parris-Lamb had
been true to his word by sending the manuscript to Galassi and Pietsch, but he had also sent
it to 14 other editors. News of Galassis pre-empt sped through New York, adding a sense of
urgency to the reading process. In the span of four days, Chad, shy and broke, met with
Sonny Mehta, the editor-in-chief of Knopf; HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham;
Norton editor in chief Starling Lawrence (who has since stepped down); Paul Whitlatch, an
editor at Scribner; and Paul Slovak and Josh Kendall of Viking. Chad found Mehta
surprisingly quiet, whereas Kendall, he said, was voluble in his admiration of the book.
That guy can really talk, said Chad. Our friend Allison Lorentzen, an associate editor at
HarperCollins, who wanted to bid on the book, was so nervous before taking Chad into the
meeting with Burnham that she upbraided him about his appearance. Youre not wearing a
belt! she said.

fter the meetings were finished, Parris-Lamb called for an auction. A publishing

A auction is like an old-fashioned art auction except the bidders are not all in the
same room and get a lot more time. Parris-Lamb started the bidding at $100,000
for North American rights, and by noon the next day he had eight bids ranging from
$110,000 (Norton) to $150,000 (Little, Browns Michael Pietsch, who had finished reading
the book only that morning). Parris-Lamb called Norton and informed them of the high bid.
Norton beat it by $10,000, and Parris-Lamb approached the new low bidder (Knopf), who
went up to $200,000. And so it went. By the end of the day, Scribner was the top bidder at
$330,000, and the next morning Lorentzen and HarperCollins came in at $350,000,
despite Chads lack of a belt. Viking dropped out. Holt bid $400,000. Little, Brown was
next, and ready for the auction to end. They bid $600,000. Chad and Chris assumed that
was it. Smaller, independent Norton dropped out; deep-pocketed Knopf followed suit. But
Pietschs old publisher Scribner bid $610,000. Now Lorentzen and HarperCollins dropped

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out, and, with just two publishers left, Parris-Lamb called for blind best bids. Little, Brown
came in at $665,000; Scribner came in at $750,000. Another difficult decision had to be
made. The money difference was far from trivial; on the other hand, Michael Pietsch said
that he himself would edit the book. This clinched it. Chad and Chris would leave $85,000
on the table for the opportunity to work with the editor of David Foster Wallace. That editor
had also, of course, put up $665,000.

It was the biggest fiction auction in recent memory; it was especially eloquent after the
darkness of 2009, when publishers had had to lay off staff, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
temporarily stopped acquiring new titles. UNEMPLOYED HARVARD MAN AUCTIONS
BASEBALL NOVEL FOR $650,000, read the headline a short time later at Bloomberg.com,
understating the final figure slightly. In the next months the rights to the book were sold in
Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Germany for, all told, about half as much again as
the American advance. Allison Lorentzen, who had bid on the novel for HarperCollins, was
commended on a job well done (not long ago, she became an editor at Penguin); one young
agent who passed on the novel was reprimanded by his colleagues (he has since moved on to
another agency). Lorentzen says she was disappointed not to have won the book, but also a
little relieved.

What would I have done if Id actually won the auction?, Lorentzen said to a colleague.

He answered, You wouldnt have been able to sleep at night.

This was now Michael Pietschs problem. But one suspected that he would not be losing any

Cover Story

he e-book revolution sneaked up on a lot of people (me, for instance). There had

T been plenty of talk about it and wild predictions, but it all seemed a long way off.
Still, Amazon kept banging its drums. In mid-2010, the company announced that
for the first time ever it was selling more e-books than hardcovers. The announcement made
a big splash in the papers but it seemed prematureAmazon was the only one selling
e-books in such quantities; e-books were much cheaper than hardcovers; etc. But then
publishers began seeing the numbers show up on their sales sheets. I published a small book

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in June 2010 and was shocked to find that digital downloads accounted for almost 20
percent of total sales. For a best-seller, the numbers were higherJonathan Franzens
Freedom, published in August 2010, has had about 30 percent of its near-million total sales
in the digital format. By the spring of 2011, the numbers for a best-seller were as high as 50
percent e-book; Hachette reported that e-books were accounting for 20 percent of total
revenue. That spring, I was told about a meeting that Amazon had had with high-level
editors where it announced that it was now planning for an all-digital world. (An Amazon
executive denies that anything so literal was said.) At this time Amazon also announced
that it was starting its own romance imprint, then its own mystery imprint. Amazon was
becoming a publisher. In February, Borders, the countrys third-largest bookseller after
Amazon and Barnes & Noble, had filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.
Hachette was near the head of that list, with a claim on the chain of $37 million.

In those same months, the great machine that is Little, Brown, a division of Hachette Book
Group, which is owned by Hachette Livre, which is a subsidiary of the large French
conglomerate Lagardre, slowly ground into gear for Chads book. Michael Pietsch read the
manuscript from the top again and sent Chad some notes for revision. Keith Hayes, a
muscular, tattooed cover designer from Staten Island, labored over a design that would
communicate the depth and warmth of Chads novel withoutthis was a direct
ordermaking reference to baseball. Little, Brown jacket meetings take place on Thursday
mornings, and on four consecutive Thursday mornings Hayes presented several versions of
possible covers to the Little, Brown brain trust. Four times in a row he was rejected, until on
the fifth Thursday Hayes finally came with a cover they likedit had a photo of a young
American guy in a golden American wheat field, above him stretching a big American sky.
They sent it to Chad, who didnt like it at all. In this realm, at least, the author is king. You
dont want a cover that makes the author cringe, says Pietsch. Hayes, secretly relieved,
went back to work, finally producing a striking all-text design with a blue background and
The Art of Fielding in a bold, white cursive. Parris-Lamb went down to the Barnes & Noble
on 54th Street and Third Avenue and paper-clipped a color printout of the new design onto
one of the books that was on the New Fiction table. Then he stepped away to see how it
compared with the other books. It compared just fine.

The cover in hand, Little, Brown could print its cataloguethe 70-odd titles it would publish
in fall-winter 2011. Chads book was the first one in the catalogue, which was significant; it
was with this catalogue that the Hachette sales force, 50 men and women strong, began to

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cover the land in the early spring of 2011. They loaded up their Oldsmobiles and Hondas
with catalogues and audio snippets and hit the road. Times had changed since Larry
Kirshbaum went door-to-door selling books in New Jersey. As the independent bookstores
had thinned out, some of the Hachette salesmen had to cover a lot more interstate. With
many of the remaining bookstores consolidated into gigantic chains, other Hachette
salesmen concentrated their efforts on Barnes & Nobles headquarters, on Fifth Avenue.
There is exactly one literary fiction buyer for all 700-plus stores. She could make or break
a book, for, as long-time industry analyst Mike Shatzkin puts it, a book that is in the store
in which a customer shops has a nearly infinitely larger chance of being purchased than a
book not in the store. And so the salesmen do their best to get their books into the stores,
and they especially did their best for Chads book. Although every book in the catalogue is
sacred to them, there is only one first book in the catalogue, and it is The Art of Fielding.

ublication was scheduled for September. In early May, Little, Brown printed 5,000

P galleys of the book. When Parris-Lamb heard this number, he coughed. Thats a
good number of galleys, he said. Michael Pietsch agreed. Its more than the print
run of some books. In May, June, and July, Marlena Bittner, Chads publicist at Little,
Brown, sent out 200 of the galleys to magazine and newspaper editors, radio producers, and
freelancers. Bittner then hunkered down and answered a lot of e-mails: interview requests,
fact-checking questions, requests for further galleys. Another publicist sent galleys to online
reviewers. But the biggest target for the galleys were booksellers: Little, Brown gave away
approximately 1,500 galleys at BookExpo America, the annual spring gathering of the tribes
in New York.

The relative importance of different kinds of influence has shifted over the years. It used to
be that booksellers and the editors of The New York Times Book Review were the most
important people in the business; then came Oprah, and Terry Grosss Fresh Air. Then a
million Amazon reviewers, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds. All of the old things are still
important; its just that the new things are now also important. Little, Brown has a dedicated
Twitter feed with more than 150,000 followers; it has a publicist on staff whose job it is to
contact people whose blogs are mostly about their cats. But I was surprised to hear from
Heather Fain, the head of marketing at Little, Brown, about just how much energy still goes
into wooing the independent booksellers. They are visited by salesmen and sent galleys; at
BookExpo there is a dinner for them. All this because they, more than anyone else, can put a

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book into someones hands and urge them to read it. Would Fain, if she could, trade the
affection of these booksellers for any single item of publicity? A positive review in the Times
would not be enough, but how about the cover of the Times Book Review? It would depend
on the review, said Fain. If it is a rave review, if Jonathan Franzen wrote and said, This is
the new me, or Don DeLillo wrote it and said, I will never write a book again because this
man has written anything I could ever do well, in that case, maybe, but only because the
booksellers would really enjoy a review like that.

Whooping. Applause.

n late May, three months from publication, Michael Pietsch squared off against five

I other editors at the Javits Center, in Manhattan. The forum was BookExpo Americas
Editors Buzz panel. Pietsch had applied to be on it, so as to take his case for The Art of
Fielding directly to the people, but he was certain hed be deniedhe had been on the panel
last year, to speak about Emma Donoghues Room, and this was, for an editor or publisher,
by far the most coveted speaking slot at the entire four-day affair. On the other hand, put
yourself in the shoes of the panels organizers. This was Michael Pietsch, publisher of Little,
Brown, editor of David Foster Wallace, whose last novel had just been published in Pietschs
edit, posthumously, during the spring, and had reached the best-seller list, an honor never
bestowed on Wallace while he lived. Youd be crazy not to let Pietsch on the panel. And,
anyway, it wasnt as if hed lied last year about Room.

Pietsch was the only man on this years panel. After an introduction by the head buyer for
the beloved City Lights bookstore, in San Francisco, the editors went one by one down the
row in reverse alphabetical order. All the books this year were novels. The first editor read
directly from a prepared speech. Her book was about a widow who has to deal with the
aftermath of her husbands deathand all the secrets he has left behind. At a certain point
in the presentation the editorwho is quite youngexplained that she too was a widow. The
next editor presented a novel about a young man who wants nothing more than to be an
Olympic runnerin Rwanda. Unfortunately, the Hutu gnocidaires have other ideas. Eight
hundred thousand people were killed, the editor reminded her audience.

Michael Pietsch was next. His book was neither about a widow nor a genocide, but short of
getting up and running out of the auditorium, there was nothing he could do about it now.
Pietsch went to work, only occasionally glancing at his notes, and immediately dug himself a

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big hole. He described the plot of the novel, how Schwartzy recruits Henry on a baseball
field in Peoria, brings him to Westish College, and tasks him with leading the team to
victory; he described Henrys error-free streak, and then his errant throw. It sounded like a
baseball novel. Many of the booksellers in the room were women. And Pietsch is an
attractive man, especially on this day, his suit neatly pressed, his chestnut-brown hair
parted handsomely, and his slightly high-pitched voice occasionally cracking under the
strain. But there is only so much about baseball that a woman is willing to hear from a man,
no matter how sensitive he is. Michael Pietsch was in trouble. That sounds like a baseball
novel, he admitted. But there was more to it than that. Rallying, Pietsch described the
existential questions at the heart of the book, its atmosphere of longing and confusion. This
is a novel about perfection, about striving, about youth, he said, about those years when
your job is to learn everything you can learn and try to understand anything you can
understand, to try to study literature, and philosophy, and figure out who you are, and who
you might become. He finished by reading from some of the early praise for the book,
including Jonathan Franzens. The room erupted in applause; there was even whooping. (It
was two girls behind me, Heather Fain told me. I was worried people would think it was
me, but it wasnt. They didnt even work for Little, Brown.) Pietsch had made it through.

The next two presentations could not compete. Damn, said Alane Mason, of Norton, when
it was her turn. I knew Michael Pietsch was going to be a hard act to follow. Mason is a
very good editor, but I cant remember what the novel she presented was about. The next
editor read a prepared speech, as the first editor had, and when she was done, some people
got up to leave. The final editor was Alison Callahan, from Doubleday. She started slowly,
haltingly, with a quip that didnt go over that well. Then she described what it was like to
read the novel she was presentingThe Night Circuson submission, and things picked up
a bit. Callahan had read the first 30 pages, she said, and then taken the rest of the book
down to the Random House cafeteria. Five hours later, she was finished. One imagined the
janitors mopping the floor around her; dimming the lights; waiting for her to finish. Then
Callahan described the book itself: It was a tale of two magicians, a boy and a girl, who are
involved in a battle at a mysterious traveling circus. Except they have fallen in love. Except
the battle is to the death! The booksellers held their collective breath. Callahan also had
blurbs, just as Pietsch did. So many, in fact, that she couldnt even choose any to quote from.
Finally, she said, it was worth noting that the book had already been bought by a major
Hollywood studioin fact the same one that had made the Twilight moviesand
production on the film was full speed ahead. That was the end of the Buzz panel. The

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booksellers and journalists and rival editors streamed out of the auditorium, to the tables
where galleys were being given out. The Art of Fielding galleys went quickly, the BEA staff
working hard to open the boxes to meet the demand. But at the table for The Night Circus,
there was total pandemonium.

On my way out of BEA, I ran into James Atlas, the former New Yorker staff writer, the
author of well-regarded biographies of Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow, founder of the
popular Penguin Lives series, and most recently the president of a small but plucky
publishing house, Atlas & Co. Dont put me in your article! said Atlas, joking. We chatted.
Then I saw a very familiar-looking man leaving the Javits Center and getting into a bright-
red sports car. I thought I recognized the man, but how could it be? Then I remembered. A
few weeks earlier Id walked into one of the remaining Manhattan Borders stores, the one
next to Madison Square Garden, to see what sort of mayhem was afoot, and was greeted by
the following books enjoying prominent display on the front table: Bossypants, a memoir by
the actress and comedian Tina Fey (Little, Brown); Stories I Only Tell My Friends, a
memoir by the actor Rob Lowe (Holt); and Ice, a memoir by the actor and rapper Ice-T (One
World/ Ballantine, a division of Random House). At the time I thought, If this is what
Borders is doing, then good riddance to them. But a few weeks later, outside BEA, I said,
Thats Ice-T.

Who? said James Atlas.

Ice-T, I said.

The rapper? said James Atlas.

Yes. He just got into that red car. And, I said, leaning over to make doubly sure, that car is
a Bentley. We just saw Ice-T get into a red Bentley sports car. He wrote a book, you know. A

And at this the author of Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet took out his
BlackBerry and texted his son that he had it on good authority that outside BEA he had just
seen the rapper and author Ice-T.

The Royal Treatment

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ow much is all this going to change if in 10 years the printed book is a curiosity,

H something that you remember only a week before Christmas, at which point you
log on to Amazon and ask them to print something up for you and deliver it to
your loved ones by the morning of December 25? It is axiomatic in the publishing world that
half the publishers now standing will no longer exist five years from nowat the top of the
pyramid, the Big Six will become the Big Three. (Or as one editor put it during BEA, Theyll
still exist. Theyll just be part of one another.) Amazon produced a sensation in the
publishing world when, the day before BEA, it announced it was hiring Larry Kirshbaum,
the man for whom a No. 1 best-seller was as good as a Rose Bowl victory for Michigan or the
birth of a grandchild, to head up its new general-trade-publishing arm, to be headquartered
in New York. Some immediately cried foul; Larrys name and picture appeared over blog
posts decrying the traitorous old publisher.

The only necessary parts of the business are authors and readers, Russ Grandinetti,
Amazons vice president of Kindle content, told me in New York. Everybody else has to
figure out how to be useful and relevant in connecting those two groups. Grandinetti spoke
of the inefficiencies he saw in publishingin marketing, in distributionthat will be
mitigated or even eliminated in a digital world. But Amazon has been hiring editors. David
Blum, whose firing from The Village Voice upended the plans of one of Parris-Lambs first
clients, is now the editor of Kindle Singles, Amazons program for long, stand-alone articles
and narratives. And now theyve hired Larry. This suggests that at least one element of the
old modelthe editorwill still stand. The publishing consultant Shatzkin claims that the
old publishing model is extinct, that the giant effort of getting a book onto thousands of
shelves around the country, for which publishers for a hundred years have been deploying
an army of salesmen, printers, and distributors, is now as easy as pressing save and
publish on your Kindle. Its nice to get an editor, but you can hire an editor, says
Shatzkin. Its nice to get somebody who will pick a typeface for youbut there are lots of
people who can pick a typeface for you. You could in other words go around and simply hire
all those people. Then again, you could let the publisher who has already hired those people
do it for you.

f course, the story Ive been telling of The Art of Fielding is not typical. Its not

O typical for an author to spend 10 years on a book, not typical for him to write such
a good book even if he does, and, if he does produce a very good book, its not

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typical for publishers to respond the way they did. Little, Brown is not a typical
publisherwhile it has pretty much eliminated the small literary novel from its list and
rarely publishes translations, it maintains the literary ethos of a much smaller houseand
Michael Pietsch is not a typical editor. Even on the little things, Chads experience has been
atypical. I never had a meeting like that, one well-regarded young novelist told me when I
described Chads marketing-and-publicity meeting. They talked to me on the phone once
before scheduling my first tour, he said, but I think it was more to determine whether I
was too fucking crazy to put in front of people. Parris-Lamb agreed. This is the royal
treatment, he told me. Theyre even paying for his author photo! Believe it or not,
publishers will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a book, and then tell the author to
hire his own photographer.

Most writers, me among them, are by nature pretty cynical about publishing. Its hard not to
be, considering all the crap they put out and call books. And theres no question that a lot of
companies and people have lost their way: one editor who used to work at a Big Six
publisher complained to me about its blind devotion to new releases at the expense of past
releases. Id have books that sold 30,000 in hardcover and 15,000 in paperback that, the
next year, the company simply dropped, he said. They didnt care. Theyd sell the rights to
someone else for $300. This is a place with a very strong backlist, but theyre not trying to
create that for the future.

And yet every single person I met while writing this articlethe publishers, the editors, the
marketing and sales peoplegenuinely loved books. Thats why they were working in a
business that, in the end, wasnt particularly lucrative. They liked reading books and cared
enough about them to devote their lives to making them. For every company or editor or
agent who no longer cared, there were a number of younger people who did.

A young agent told me of a literary agency he used to work for that was so prestigious, and
had so many excellent clients, that the top agents could no longer read their clients workif
they started reading, the whole exquisite machine theyd constructed would fall apart. The
agent told me how, when he was just starting at this agency, a venerable old novelist
delivered his final novel on a Friday afternoon. It was standard practice for the assistants to
read everything that came in and write a report; in this case, my friend assumed that the
head agent would read the manuscript as well. My friend spent his weekend curled up with
the typescript; it wasnt the novelists best work, but to be one of its first readers, and asked

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to commentit was an honor! My friend wrote his report and sent it to the older agent, then
sat outside his office as he called the venerable old novelist and read it to him, verbatim,
over the phone. He hadnt read the book! said my friend. And, of course, no one was
harmed. It didnt matter. But I made a decision then that no matter how far I get or how
high I rise up in this field, I will always read the work. Because, you know, thats why I leave
the house in the morning.


week before BEA, I had joined Chad on a visit home to his parents in Racine. His

A sister, Heidi, who lives in Seattle, was also home, and the family was going up to
the lakes in northern Wisconsin for the weekend to celebrate the Harbachs 40th
wedding anniversary.

Racine, the Belle City of the Lakes, is separated from Milwaukee by half an hour of
farmland; the city spreads back from Lake Michigan, with a thin layer of wealth on the
waterfront, then the old manufacturing part of the city, still in a state of reasonable repair
because of the SC Johnson company, makers of Pledge, Windex, and Off! Beyond that are a
few miles of suburban sprawl, and then the farms start up again. Chads family lives in the
suburban part, in a clean, comfortable ranch house on quiet Independence Road. On the
basement level there is a Ping-Pong table; on the first floor, a large and sunny kitchen that
Chads mother, Tammy, fills with stories of the neighbors, relatives, former teachers, and
other friends of the Harbachs.

Chad and I spent the afternoon driving around. We swung by St. Catherines High School
and ate four burgers at Kewpee, in downtown Racine. Then we checked our e-mail at
bohemian Wilsons Coffee & Tea. In the evening we had dinner back at the house; it was
followed by an epic beer tasting. Chads father, Russ, is a dedicated home brewer. Though
quieter even than Chad, he became expansive once his best friend, Tony Braun, came over
for the beer tasting. We tasted an imperial stout, Russs imitation Thomas Hardy, Tony
Brauns pale ale, and a honey bragget from northern Wisconsin. As Chad later explained,
Russ and Tony had taken a months-long, intensive beer course (Beer College) and were
now in some demand across the Midwest to judge home-brew tastings. Guys from Indiana
will call them up and say, Well give you $200 if you judge our beer contest, Chad said.
And my dad and Tony Braun will say, Two hundred dollars? That doesnt even cover our

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travel costs. And were busy. Butall right! On this evening Tony Braun was a little hot
under the collar about some political pressure that had recently been brought to bear on the
Belle City Home Brewers, of which he and Russ are active members. City officials were
trying to ban them from offering their home brews at Racines annual beer-tasting fair. Tony
Braun was ready to take the club and the festival over to Kenosha, if thats how things were.

Eventually talk turned to Chads book, a beautiful blue galley of which was lying on the
kitchen counter. You should tell them to make a movie, Tony Braun said, but it needs to
say in the contract that the movie stars Tony Braun and Scarlett Johanna.

You can tell them Tony Braun will learn Scarlett Johanssons name before filming starts,
Chads sisters friend Faith suggested.

Chads father had a more humble proposal. Youre going to go to Germany and Belgium on
your book tour, right? he said of the great beer-brewing countries. Chad admitted that he
may in fact end up going there. Youre going to need people to do things for you, said Russ.
I can be your entourage. Everyone laughed. We drank more beer. Early the next
morningthey like to catch you unawaresChad received a phone call from the student-
loan collection agency that had been hounding him for years. He took the call and told them
hed pay down the principal$30,000that week.

When I got back to New York, I found a galley of The Art of Fielding and started reading. It
had gotten better again since Id last seen it: more compact, less sentimental, funnier. Once
the hard work of plotting was done, Chad had filled it with many unexpected pleasures: the
surreal on-field banter and off-field arguments; the invented over-literate college
sportswriter Sarah X. Pessel; and the quotes from the novels book within a book, also called
The Art of Fielding, a Wittgensteinian tractate about playing shortstop by the fictional Hall
of Famer Aparicio Rodriguez (99. To reach a ball he has never reached before, to extend
himself to the very limits of his range, and then a step further: this is the shortstops
dream). Reading the galley, I saw that Henrys anguish about perfection, and his sudden
inability to make the throw to first, mirrored Chads difficulties completing the book,
especially with so many people around him demanding that he just do it. I saw other things,
too. But mostly I was just delighted. It was as if time itself had written this book, had worn
the grooves of plot and character into it, had allowed its small angles and subtle insights to

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emerge eventually into the light. To field a groundball must be considered a generous act
and an act of comprehension, Aparicio Rodriguez teaches us in Proposition 59.

One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This
is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby
comprehending the ball and dissipating the self which is the source of all suffering and
poor defense.

Time had written the book, but Chad had had to become its conduit. How had he done this?
I dont know. Id seen him: Id sat in the next room or at the next table, Id been there the
whole time, and I still dont know.

An extended version of this story, How a Book Is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding,
is available on your favorite device through your Nook and Kindle reading apps. Go to



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Outright Replaced Won't See on the 'Will Ring' Grew Up to Be Possible Ben Affleck
and Grace' Revival Gorgeous Bombshell


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