Monday 15 June 2009

Another country

Ben over at Crucket recommended Netherland, Joseph O'Neill's book about a Dutch banker living in New York and playing for the Staten Island club. I'm only a little way in, but there are some excellent moments - a description of fielders who 'again and again converge in unison on the batsman and again and again scatter back to their starting points, a repetition of pulmonary rhythm'; someone's silver nail polish wearing away to 'a fishy shimmer'; the 'mechanical dark' of a hotel's service staircase.

O'Neill seemed to be writing a lot from life, and, googling him, it turned out to be so. The New York Times followed him down to Staten Island to watch a match for a piece that was warm and funny, if not always intentionally. O'Neill, they report is 'a decent off-speed bowler' who also 'led off the batting, hitting some nice cuts and sweeps, a couple of long balls, even a delicate backwards slice before being 'run out' for a disappointing 21. He was picked off base as it were, trying to eke out a run where there wasn't one.'

'After just 17 overs [the cricket equivalent of a inning, roughly] the team was all out with 117 runs, a meagre score.'

Fact-checking departments at American magazines are legendary [a friend of mine was once asked 'how he knew' that Kurt Cobain was dead], so it's good to see that some subjects - off-speed bowling for one - still lie beyond their fearsome reach. It's truly another country over there.


Rob said...

I wonder if it would be any different in any other non commonwealth country

Brit said...

I was trying to explain Bradman to an American friend once by describing how his average was twice as good as the best of the rest.

His response was to declare that "Any sport where a batter can average 50 is in serious need of some defensive adjustments." This statement of profound yank arro-ignorance riled me greatly, as you can imagine. I had my revenge by explaining that baseball was invented in England and is still going strong here as a game for girl guides.

Krish said...

I read "Netherland" a few weeks back. The portions about cricket in the book was excellent, but I didn't like the book overall. If it had been about cricket entirely, maybe it would have been much better. As it was, there was too much meandering and a wishy-washy ending. The use of flashbacks (by first revealing the surprise) spoiled any anticipation of the plot.

The Old Batsman said...

It's a bit like the Americans describing football too, they tend to relate it to sports they know - with 'offensive plays' etc. Cricket ties with baseball hence the strange little crossovers and connectives in the language. It was a nice piece though.

But yeah, baseball.. I like the history and all that let's face it, they can't even catch the ball without a giant glove on.