In the foreword for Infinite Jest, Dave Eggers talks about readability in contemporary fiction. How one end of the spectrum is “easy to read” writing, “communicated on a somewhat conversational wavelength,” and the opposite end is writing that’s “challenging, generally and thematically,” writing that makes the reader “work a bit.” He argues that the two kinds of writing are, in a perfect world, not mutually exclusive:
“There might even be…readers who find it possible to enjoy Thomas Pynchon one day and Elmore Leonard the next. Or even: readers who can have fun with Jonathan Franzen in the morning while wrestling with William Gaddis at night.”
The Art of Fielding doesn’t need me to say this (Little, Brown and Harbach are doing quite well for themselves, after the book received furious media petting, causing it to sell to the tune of 93,000 copies, print only, since its hardcover hit in early September), but The Art of Fielding is a great book. But the reason why AoF is worth writing about here is not because of its literary merit, but because it puts a perspective on the readability spectrum Eggers was talking about, crystallizing its poles by occupying a space somewhere in between.