Thursday, June 19, 2008

Netherland : Joseph O'Neill

Netherland : Joseph O'Neill

The ultimate post 9/11 cricketing novel ... or at least something like that.

Linda wasn't able to make her book club last night, so I bashed through this book in about three hours in the afternoon while barbequing lemony chicken for the bring-a-dish, end-of-term dinner.

It was no burden. I'd intended to read this book anyway. I'm no book reviewer, but it was eminently readable and absorbing, combining the unlikely topics of cricket, New York and alienation.

And for me - although I'm probably wrong - it really is about isolation/alienation, characterised through its contemplation on cricket, a game which only exists as a virtual myth here, yet ranks amongst another of the great sports of the world ignored in the US. The title reinforces my impression and it seems to me that that is where the largely immigrant characters exist in a kind of cultural diaspora centred on this strange and arcane game.

But there is a sort of paradox here ... before the development of baseball, cricket was big here. Every sizable town in the east had a cricket club. In fact, the world's first international fixture in any sport was between the USA and Canada over 150 years ago. Yes ... really.

I guess I've taken refuge in a similar way too. Badminton and cycling are sports with a huge culture outside the US of which the participants are acutely and sympathetically aware.

Anyway, there is plenty of food for thought in this very good book. The author, Joe O'Neill, is a very nice man and apart from me, was the only person in the room who had ever played cricket or heard of the Duckworth-Lewis Method , Pieterson's switch hitting controversy, and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint.