I’ve just finished reading Andrew Strauss’s book (review is at Cricinfo
on Saturday) and it highlighted a worrying trend: the premature autobiography. It’s one which is seemingly unstoppable, too, and not just in sport – although sportsmen offer publishers a tantalising combination of fame and talent which the public will mop up all day long.
It’s just not on, though. The book was fine – it passed a few hours, and I’d have enjoyed it at an airport or on the bus. But I was left with a feeling of “…and?” Of all the recently released autobiographies, at least Strauss’s is nicely written. He received some help from Angus Fraser but, by and large, it is his own work – a tremendous achievement, then. The fact remains that he has only been in the game five minutes. His excitement in arriving in Test cricket is glib, and no different from any other cricketer. Descriptions of the Ashes are neatly written and fondly recalled…but again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a dozen times before. Worse still, this lets the author down more than us.
I’m sure once he’s finished his career and has progressed into a fulltime journalist, if he chooses, then his final book really will be worth reading. Right now though, it felt unfinished; much like his career, it is only the first chapter.
It’s a shame though. I think I’m right in saying Charlotte Church, who my boss absolutely adores and respects with unrivalled passion, has already published two! She’s about 23 for God’s sake. Yet we can’t blame her or other people for writing them. Books are big money these days. Monty Panesar has accepted a Â£250,000 deal to write his – he’d be very daft, or perhaps a shrewd businessman, if he turned that down. I guess it’s just a shame for us who have to review them as, essentially, it’s the same old thing over and over again.
“You haven’t let me down, Will. You’ve let yourself down,” so said many a teacher to me as I ambled in, shirt untucked in a vain and failed attempt to appear nonchalant, cocky. But enough of my schooldays, the issue is you – for you have let both me and you down. An enticing opportunity to demonstrate your limerick skills, not to mention the chance to win a couple of books – apparently these are not enough to tempt the demanding Corridor reader. So come on – spend five minutes and produce your best. Your teacher would be disappointed in you.
After all, you wouldnâ€™t want to let yourself down, would you? (didnâ€™t you hate how teachers always ramped up the guilt factor?)
Got quite a few books piling up here so it’s time for a competition. I have two copies of Arm-ball to Zooter – still warm from the oven – the new book from The Guardian’s Lawrence Booth. A fine writer and allround good egg, Lawrence has even agreed to sign the books, thereby raising its antique value by several thousand percent.
Joking aside it’s a terrific read, as you would expect, and well worth the mere Â£7.79 from Amazon. So treat yourself to a new book – one which, thankfully, isn’t an autobiography from a veteran international batsman of 14 months…
We’ve run a few limerick competitions in the past which have gone down well. For those not sure of the style a limerick takes, it’s really simple: using one of the two starting lines below, construct a five-line verse with the rhyme scheme of aabba. See here for ideas.
So, use either of the first lines below and get cracking. Competition will run until I get very bored; keep it cricket-based as much as you can, and the best two will win one of Lawrence’s books.
1) When Flintoff asked Ponting to lunch…
2) At Brisbane one day by the sea…
Saw this reviewed in a newspaper today, and it looks well worth buying. I might even get it myself unless I can borrow one from work.
In 2005, Aurum republished with success, J.L. Carr’s miniature and classic “Dictionary of Extra-Ordinary Cricketers” – the book reprinted within a few months. Now, in its first collaboration with John Wisden & Co., publishers of the celebrated annual “Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack”, it publishes a similarly eccentric gallery of quixotic and eccentric cricketers, edited by acclaimed cricket writer Gideon Haigh. But where readers of J.L. Carr were never quite sure whether the author had somehow embellished – or even completely invented – the facts about the cricketers he anthologised, the esoteric details and mad whimsies recorded in these obituaries are exactly as they appeared in the august pages of the Almanack itself. Thus, we read of Anthony Ainley, who besides a claim to fame of playing the Master in “Dr. Who”, opened the batting clad in “sunblock, helmet and swimming goggles” and always took his teas alone in his car, “possibly because he despised cheeses of all kinds”.” There is the Rev. Reginald Heber Ross, whose two first-class cricket appearances were separated by a record 32 years. And there is the much-lamented loss of Peter the Cat, who frequented the pavilion at Lord’s for many years. He gets his own obituary.
Peter the Lord’s Cat: And Other Unexpected Obituaries from Wisden – Â£7.18. Check out the “cricket_books” tag or this post for some book recommendations.
Being the obliging type, not to mention a sucker for “best book” lists and suchlike, I’ve succumbed to Harry R’s request. Therefore, let’s draw up a list of the best cricket books out there; they need not be the classics, although they’re very welcome to park their dusty jackets here. Anything which you enjoyed, really.
Your top books
Beyond a Boundary
The Art of Cricket
David Frith’s books
Gideon Haigh on Kerry Packer: The Cricket War
Fred: Portrait of a Fast Bowler, by John Arlott
Basil D’Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy, by Peter Oborne
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2006
Ashes Regained: The Coach\’s Story, by Duncan Fletcher
You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too!: Confessions of an Umpire with Attitude
A Lot of Hard Yakka: Cricketing Life on the County Circuit, by Simon Hughes
Morning Everyone: A Sportswriter’s Life, by Simon Hughes
Balham to Bollywood, by Chris England
W.G.Grace: A Life, by Simon Rae
It’s Not Cricket: Skullduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game, by Simon Rae
Bodyline Autopsy, by David Frith
Game for Anything: Writings on Cricket, by Gideon Haigh
Gideon Haigh’s books
Opening Up: My Autobiography, by Michael Atherton
A Social History of English Cricket, by Derek Birley
Barclays World of Cricket, by EW Swanton
I should probably also mention that Andrew Strauss’s autobiography, Coming into Play, is released on the same day as Kevin Pietersen’s. Strauss writes an excellent column for the Daily Telegraph and, while he’ll have used a ghost for much of this book, he is an intelligent, hard-working cricketer and it too should make for interesting reading. Like Pietersen’s, it can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
Seen on Flickr, a book from 1949. I particularly like the “With 7 action photographs“!