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Nadine Gordimer has announced her retirement from fiction writing: fb.me/2NvjKm0dR

Why We Watch Cricket: Extract from JM Coetzee and Paul Auster’s Letters Collected in Here and Now

 
Here and NowLike any other fan of the game of cricket, JM Coetzee spends hours before the television watching proceedings that “duplicate, in every respect that counts, the proceedings of some other day’s cricket in some other place” – and yet, like any other enthusiast, he finds it difficult to tear himself away from the screen. Unlike most fans, however, Coetzee proceeds to analyse his fascination with the game in an engaging correspondence with Paul Auster.

The New Yorker has published Coetzee and Auster’s letters on the matter, extracted from the book Here and Now, a collection of correspondence between the authors. In the first letter in the series, Coetzee admits to putting aside two or three books he was in the middle of reading in order to watch the cricket game between Australia and South Africa.

Both Coetzee and Auster call watching sport on TV an “utter waste of time”, but they keep on indulging in this “guilty pleasure”. Auster takes the aesthetic approach in explaining this phenomenon, commenting on the narrative component of sport and comparing it to performance art, while Coetzee takes the ethical route, referring to the need for heroes which sport satisfies.

The “crisis in world finance” that I wrote about last time seems set to continue into the new year. At this point, I think I should quit my role as commentator on economic affairs. I am reminded of Ezra Pound, whose unhingement began during the depression of the nineteen-thirties, when he convinced himself he was seeing things about how the economy worked that other people, wrapped up in fictions, were too blind to see: in short order, he turned himself into what Gertrude Stein called “a village explainer,” Uncle Ez.

It is high summer in this hemisphere, and I spent most of Sunday sitting in front of a television screen (shades of Wall Street!) watching the third day of a five-day game of cricket between the national teams of Australia and South Africa. I was absorbed, I was emotionally involved, I tore myself away only reluctantly. In order to watch the game I put aside the two or three books I am in the middle of reading.

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Image courtesy Lectura y Locura

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    March 11th, 2013 @17:05 #
     
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    I confess, I love watching cricket. Listening more than watching, almost.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 12th, 2013 @02:04 #
     
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    I have discovered the perfect way to follow cricket (alas, only if England is playing): the Guardian's Over by Over commentary. Funny, informed stream of cricket consciousness.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    March 12th, 2013 @07:39 #
     
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    I've been on the OBO! Once, years ago. It was a highlight :)

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 12th, 2013 @08:39 #
     
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    Years ago the Brit satirical poet Andy P. published a volume entitled 'The Playbook for Young Adults about Late Capitalism', which included a list of his likes and dislikes. Among the 'likes' were Trotsky, Leeds United and poetry; among the 'dislikes', Trotskyists, Leeds and poets. (You get the idea...).
    I feel the same way here: love cricket, but not so sure about cricketers. Gibbs boasting he didn't have a single book in his house; Kirsten remarking that nothing was as boring as a poetry reading....

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    March 12th, 2013 @22:38 #
     
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    I have a signed copy of a book by Herschelle Gibbs that he purportedly wrote...

    My favourite quote about poetry readings is from the late, great Dutch poet laureate Gerrit Komrij (published by Gus Ferguson, locally):

    "Poetry is the most wonderful thing," he said at a reading in Cape Town, featuring himself - "but it can never be too short."

    For me, cricket is the most literary of sports. Not because of its inherent literary-ness, but because of its affinities with oral (Homeric) poetry.

    I've expounded to Helen Moffett on this before. Careful, or I'll expound on it again - in this forum!

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 13th, 2013 @00:03 #
     
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    Expound away! And cricket does produce some fine literature, and even cultural analysis. (Ben, I remember your starring turn on OBO. Rustum has also featured! And I think my name has been taken in vain there, too. You haven't arrived until...)

    Some brilliant pieces of recent cricket writing: http://www.alloutcricket.com/blogs/sundries/the-haal-of-pakistan (go on, read the whole thing for an insight into national identity if nothing else); and http://mampoer.co.za/tom-eaton/full-circle. The latter is behind the Mampoer paywall, but is worth every penny -- Tom finds (gasp) something NEW to say about Sachin Tendulkar. No, I didn't think it could be done either. It's fascinating.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 13th, 2013 @07:19 #
     
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    Well, I'm stumped ..... but he did go to Bishops, didn't he.
    Once I read a brilliant article by one of the Brit social historians about how changes in soccer's economy were mirrored by changes in the profile of its 'popular heroes' - all the way from Dixie Dean through Bobby Charlton to George Best. Imo this would be a good way to focus in cricket....from Trumper to de Villiers. The mind boggles.
    Tendulkar really does stand out as an exception, though, doesn't he?
    But it all depends on material conditions, as always. In this case, one of them is the pitch (e.g SA had 4 spin bowlers in their team in 1906-7, and none worth speaking of now).

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 13th, 2013 @08:47 #
     
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    From Another Country:

    Tommy Judd: You know... What I really hate about cricket, is that it is such a damned good game.

    Guy Bennett: Ah! Judd's Paradox. Of course, cricket is a fundamental part of the capitalist conspiracy.

    Tommy Judd: Of course.

    Guy Bennett: One only has to observe the two of them, see. There's
    the Proletariat forced to labour in the field, while the Bourgeoisie indulges in the pleasures of batting and bowling.

    Tommy Judd: Quite.

    Guy Bennett: I mean, there's every reason to suppose... that the game ultimately derives from the wholly unjustified right of the medieval lord to the unpaid labour of villains and serfs at haymaking and harvest.

    Tommy Judd: You know, you're really beginning to get the idea.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 13th, 2013 @09:15 #
     
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    Yes, but cricket does offer possibilities for resistance to class oppression, Rustum.
    e.g. many years ago, during a Gentlemen (?) vs Players (?) game....
    one of the Gentlemen comes out to bat, resplendent in new kit, pads, bat, shiny hooped cap etc etc.
    Freddie Trueman, who's bowling, bowls him first ball.
    Said Gentleman, on returning to the pavillion, says to Trueman: "Well bowled, Trueman. That was a beautiful ball."
    Trueman replies: "Aye, it were an' all, lad. And 'twere wasted on thee."

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 13th, 2013 @16:55 #
     
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    Who went to Bishops, Kelwyn? Not Ben, not Rustum, not Tom, and I don't think Sachin is one of their alumni either.

    I love Judd's paradox, although I suspect the rules of the game are being horribly misrepresented in that little snippet, Rustum. As for the classic Trueman tale (Bob Woolmer would tell it using "sunshine" instead of "lad"), it reminds me of the tensions in the Bodyline campaign, in which Harold Larwood ("Player") neutralised the unstoppable Don Bradman (the "Upstart Colonial"), under the auspices of Douglas Jardine. ("Gentleman").

    Somebody stop me, please (of all the things I miss about teaching, I think I miss using cricket to teach post-colonial theory the most...)

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 14th, 2013 @09:32 #
     
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    As far as I know it's HG, Helen.
    I'm trying to think through cricket and post-colonial theory ... 'Lagaan', I suppose?

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 14th, 2013 @10:02 #
     
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    I'm yet to see Lagaan.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 14th, 2013 @12:44 #
     
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    It had a lot of spin.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 14th, 2013 @13:17 #
     
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    Kelwyn, I start with that classic, that other foundation-stone of p/c theory, written in the same year as Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: the great, the magisterial Beyond A Boundary by C.L.R James, Marxist and cricketer, forefather of the likes of Frederic Jameson and Stuart Hall. And then whip across two oceans to the equally magisterial Ramachandra Guha. Try his A Corner of a Foreign Field: the Indian history of a British sport. It's wonderful. *happy sigh* Bear with me, people; this IS a books site!

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 14th, 2013 @16:49 #
     
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    Never heard of the Guha before, Helen - thanks. Looks good.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    March 18th, 2013 @07:26 #
     
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    I think I'll also dip into the Guha... Who else revelled in Shahid Afridi's reign of terror on Sunday?

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 21st, 2013 @07:47 #
     
  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    March 21st, 2013 @10:42 #
     
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    Ah, the late cut. Nice link...you know, despite having been to the same school as Biff & kie, the best reason I remember why I could endure cricket but not rugby, is that we were forced to watch the &^%$!! latter every weekend. (Come to think of it, Coetzee and Stephen Watson have written pieces about rugby ... if I remember, e.g., the point that the scrum/three quarter line movement models itself on a parturating mother.....).
    If one wants a chronicle of the dysfunction of the colonizer which feeds into apartheid and post-apartheid hierarchies, Spud isn't a bad place to start.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 21st, 2013 @15:19 #
     
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    I only got into cricket because of reggae, via which my interest in the W. Indies rebel tours here. Then a long hiatus until, in 1994 in the states, I caught a few clips of cricket while I was quite homesick.

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