Sunday, December 21, 2008

What I've been reading

I've started many books and haven't finished yet most of them..., but slowly and steadily, mainly during my many & long forthcoming travels (NB: Transylvania, here I come!), I'll get there...

Anyway: a book I've just finished is Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" (wiki link; audio link with Hornby answering questions about the book). There are apparently two movies made after it already, but I haven't seen either, so I'll be silent in that respect. But the book... the book is definitely not to miss.

Whether you are are a (Arsenal/UK...) football fan or not, this is likely the best book about football (or for that matter: sports fan passion) you've run into so far... certainly my best such book, though I confess I am not a big fan of football or of sports fiction & co, for that matter... so this could be most about its literary value, in the end. Here's a blurb that manages to somehow catch the main part of "Fever Pitch" in a phrase: "For many people watching football is mere entertainment; to some it's more like a ritual; but to others, its highs and lows provide a narrative to life itself. For Nick Hornby, his devotion to the game has provided one of the few constants in a life where the meaningful things--like growing up, leaving home and forming relationships, both parental and romantic--have rarely been as simple or as uncomplicated as his love for Arsenal". What I personally like a lot in Hornby's style here is the self-deprecating humor, which works perfectly in the context, and the attention to detail, again functioning very well given the theme.

To get you in the mood, I selected two of my favourite quotes from the book below (though I ultimately disagree with both of them); by the way, Hornby has plenty of those: paragraphs I simply hate I didn't/couldn't write myself :-)
  • "You just can't find this outside a football ground; there is nowhere else you can be in the entire country that will make you feel as though you are at the heart of things. Because whichever nightclub you go to, or play, or film, or whichever concert you see, or restaurant you eat at, life will have been going on elsewhere in your absence, as it always does; but when I am at Highbury for games like these, I feel that the rest of the world has stopped and is gathered outside the gates,waiting to hear the final score"

  • "I fell in love with football as I was later to fall in love with women: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically, giving no thought to the pain or disruption it would bring..."

PS. In order to make a link to my typical Econ academe world: the fan(s) portrayed in this book reminds me in a way of LSE's Chris Pissarides: I recall a short discussion a while ago, probably at the NBER Summer Institute in Boston this year, where he confessed that he cannot miss any game of (several) UK football teams (in the sense that he would shorten his conferences, maybe miss keynote speeches etc, just to make it to these games). And I games; watching them on TV does not count. After reading Hornby's "Fever Pitch", I understand Pissarides is definitely not alone in that passion :-).

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