A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
The Beautiful Brutal Clarity of Sport
One of the rare and lovely things about cricket is the shape of the pitch. An oval is a curve, a single line that flows around and around and around without end. The rectangle of most other sports fields is, when you think about it, an unnatural shape: too precise, too geometric.
The oval means that the audience is fully arrayed around the players, and that there is nowhere to hide. All your success, all your failure, happens in the precise centre of that audience. Nowhere has that been so true as the fourth Ashes test at Trent Bridge.
The whole story of the test lies in its very first 93 minutes: Australia, invited to bat, did not.
Or not well, and not for long. All out for 60, in just 18.3 overs, with Mr E. Xtras high-scoring on 14.
For the Australian players, especially their captain Michael Clarke, it means a tsunami of schadenfreude from their English friends.
But what we really need for a moment like this is a writer of the insight of CLR James, the late great Trinidadian Marxist cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. So we’ll content ourselves with a piece from CLR’s wife Selma marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of Beyond a Boundary, described by John Arlott as “the finest book written about the game of cricket”.
It was a book CLR had to write. He understood the game, he believed, in ways most experts did not and could not. He considered himself more scrupulous about the game’s technique and how it grappled with team dynamics, skills, players’ concentration and the psychological war between batsman and bowler, batsman and fielders. And he saw the game not only as it was played but as it was lived – and for West Indians that meant first of all a colonial society stratified by race and class. His unblinking description of the shades of status among cricket clubs cuts like glass.
RIP Robert Conquest
The New York Times has a fine obituary for Robert Conquest, poet and historian, who died last Monday aged 98. Conquest was best known for his work exposing the monumental nastiness of the Soviet system, which he forcefully laid at the feet of Lenin, seeing Stalin as a multiplier rather than an originator.
There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
The Truth Naked
One of my beloved former colleagues once had to visit – on a matter of business, you understand, and in the company of his Good Lady Wife – a nudist club, or naturist club, or whatever you call it when people purposefully wander around outside after forgetting to put their clothes on. They were in the nuddy, as we used to say.
The secret, he said, was to maintain eye contact. At. All. Times.
So I am thinking of gifting him Naked at Lunch: The Adventures of a Reluctant Nudist by Mark Haskell Smith.
Michael Bywater’s review of the book for the Literary Review starts by trying to avoid the cover of the American edition:
The American edition of Naked at Lunch has the title in big upper-case letters, printed as though they were cutouts, windows onto the scene behind, showing a man on a slatted chair that appears to be on a ship. You can see the sea, and the kind of light you get at sea, which has inspired artists for…
You’re right. This is avoidance behaviour so I’ll just say it: the guy is NAKED, okay? NUDE. Plump, middle-aged, bald, grey goatee, specs and he’s in the effing nude. On his lap is a MacBook Air. It’s resting on his willy. His todger, for God’s sake, wang, doodle, schlong, his PENIS is TOUCHING his COMPUTER. This must be the author on the nudist cruise, with 1,865 other naked people, and I really hope the ID tag around his neck doesn’t say ‘Access All Areas’.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week
Donald Trump. He will not be President for the simple reason that he would be a supremely awful candidate in a general election. The only thing he can possibly do is destroy the Republican party, and the old rich white guys are not about to let that happen.
So let’s nobody (and I’m looking at you MSM) give him the oxygen of attention.