Wednesday 27 January 2021

Favourite Books #33

Okay, let’s get down to what really matters: football. David Conn is a Guardian sports journalist who qualified as a lawyer, after reading English and Politics at York University, who now specialises in financial investigations of contemporary soccer. He is also, mutatis mutandis, a lifelong Manchester City fan. Richer Than God mixes personal memoir with a thorough analysis of the changing fortunes of the club he has supported since boyhood. But Richer Than God is not just for City fans, but for anyone interested in the evolution of the modern game, as it engages with the ethical incongruities and cognitive dissonance involved in following a football club through thick and thin, and reckons with what it means to retain such affection in the face of the grubby late capitalist world we all endure. 

He has written three other books: The Football Business: Fair Game in the '90s? (1998) and The Beautiful Game?: Searching for the Soul of Football (2005) focus on the influence of money on modern day English football; while The Fall of the House of FIFA (2017) charts the corruption endemic at football's world governing body. He is also currently filing some fine pieces on the UK government’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic. 

Incidentally, another great football read from the same year of publication (2012) is The Outsider by Jonathan Wilson, a study of the game’s odd man out, the goalkeeper (he can handle the ball!). The title provides a neat call-back to the previous entry in this series, which featured the famed Algerian shot-stopper, Albert Camus. (Nabokov, it may interest you to know, also briefly donned the gloves, playing as custodian while at Cambridge.) Whenever anyone sneeringly calls into question the validity of a grown man retaining a passion for watching twenty-two other grown men running around a field chasing a piece of inflated leather, I merely refer them to the quotation from Camus which forms the slogan which adorns one of my favourite t-shirts from my collection. See below. 

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Favourite Books #32

At first sight, rereading Camus’s The Plague during the time of Covid, as I have done recently, may seem appropriate. It isn’t. So similar to contemporary events are its descriptions of how individuals, and the wider society, behave in Oran during the time of crisis, that many passages could have been culled from today’s newspapers and news bulletins. Which tends to make one despair for human nature, and embrace the cliché that it doesn’t change much. So, if you want to avoid something clear-eyed and sobering, then don’t look here. 

It’s difficult to choose with Camus, as The Outsider, The Myth of Sisyphus, or the short but perfectly distilled The Fall, would all be eligible candidates. But, you know, given the times we live in, I thought it was appropriate. 

Sunday 10 January 2021

Favourite Books #31

I am a great admirer of the work of Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. Although his more straightforward narratives have a dreamlike quality, and his more experimental work remains rooted in everyday yet universal concerns, there is certainly a noticeable distinction between his first three novels, and his fourth. Having secured his reputation, and presumably enough financial security not to have to worry too much about money, by winning the Booker Prize for The Remains of the Day, what he sprung on the public next came entirely out of left field, and sharply divided critical opinion. Esteemed literary critic James Wood – whose work I also have a high regard for - opined that The Unconsoled ‘invented its own category of badness’. As for me, I think it invented its own category of goodness. With all the atmosphere of an elongated series of anxiety dreams, it is my favourite novel of his, not least because he had the balls and the integrity to do it in the first place, but also because it is a literary work as startling, inventive and singular as Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, or Kafka’s The Trial , a cross between which it resembles. Look out for concert pianist protagonist Ryder’s obsession with World Cup trivia, and his son Boris’ fascination with Subbuteo table soccer. 

Ishiguro also seems like a good bloke as well. See profile below.

Also find a link to my review of his Never Let Me Go Below too.