10 September 2007

Recent Reading

I don't read nearly as much or as often as I'd like to these days for one reason or another - mainly ocular and mental tiredness. Some weeks I'm lucky if I manage to get through New Scientist before the next copy drops through my door; other, better, weeks see me making use of my 40 minute bus commute to read.

Last week was one such, when I read a book that entertained me greatly and then touched me profoundly when the tone changed suddenly at the end. The book in question? the late Harry Thompson's Penguins Stopped Play, chronicling his lifelong love of amateur cricket. Not having read or heard of The Captain Scott Invitational XI before despite a previous book by another of its founders, I found the whole thing charming. I found the humour spot on, the eccentricities engaging and the personalities interesting. Being the cricket nut that I am (though a little beach/park cricket aside I have never played; perhaps another point of resonance, as neither had the author before the team was set up) the subject matter was otherwise familiar and compelling and I actively looked forward to my commute and the occasion it afforded me to lose myself in the Scotties' exploits. I found myself cheering the split from the Layabouts despite the potential loss of humour, and really enjoying the reporting of the matches once everyone was wont to try. But perhaps more enjoyable were Thompson's descriptions of the locations: he really sold me on Buenos Aires as somewhere to visit (though doubtless I will forget or find somewhere more appealing by the time I ever have the time and finance to think of a proper holiday), and his verve for doing more than just the cricket whilst the Scotties were touring was admirable and inspiring.

The core of the team came over as so likable that by the end when he talks first of the death of one of his teammates, and then of his own diagnosis with cancer, I was genuinely moved. If I were less lazy, more rich and had more time where I felt free (as opposed to time when I am technically free but don't feel it - of which I have a lot), and if it were not the end of summer and thus the worst time to inquire, I would be sorely tempted to follow the instinct that caught me in that moment (and indeed which made me google for the website) and look up the team - to some end or other but alas...

The other book I read recently that struck me deeply was Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I found this work to be one of the single best pieces of descriptive writing I have ever come across, and it is the only book I have ever read which immediately made me think: fuck, I want to film this! Not that I will mind, though hopefully someone with cinematic talent will.

Yes the characters are bland and the plot is thin, but the evocative descriptions and the associated prose more than make up for it and it had quite an impact. So much so I palmed it off on others, which I very rarely do.


Rosa said...

cheers Graham! I don't need to read 'penguins stopped play' now I know the sad ending!! :0

was looking forward to reading it too, after several reviews from G, my bro and others (who DIDN'T give away the ending).

Graham said...

First up: Sorry!

I don't tend to view non-fiction as something in need of spoiler protection. I would say, however, that (like The Road) the book is all about the journey so should still prove very readable.

Also, I have to say I'd assumed you'd read it; Garry had talked of lending your copy to me when I was up in June/July.

Still, my apologies.