Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

soccer and books, books and soccer

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The area of town I live in – Lansdowne and Bloor – is heavily Portuguese, so Portugal's win over Turkey at the Euro Cup on Saturday did not go unnoticed. Every nearby sports bar was spilling over with fans in red, gold, and green, and when the game was over, those same fans quickly hopped into their flag-draped cars and spent the next few hours riding around honking their horns. Even as late as one in the morning you could hear the odd lonely superfan honking at darkened houses and empty parking lots.

Before the Turkey-Portugal match, Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk said he would support the Turkish team despite the fact that its coach was an "ultra nationalist." The coach, Fatih Terim, shot back that Pamuk was an "inadequate nationalist." (Don't they know what a zinger is in Turkey? Why not just call him a "poo poo nationalist" and be done with it?)

John Keenan, writing on the Guardian site, thinks Pamuk is missing a literary opportunity by giving footie the cold shoulder:

"If he turned his penetrating mind to football, Pamuk, I'm sure, could write a fascinating account of its effect on the Turkish soul. If not Pamuk, then who? Where is this football-crazy nation's answer to Nick Hornby?"

Also writing about books and soccer is David Baddiel in the Times Online. Baddiel wants to know why soccer doesn't have a hold over the British literary imagination the way baseball does over American writing:

"Part of this is to do with the way that Americans imagine themselves. America is a culture that, having so little of it, fetishishes its own history, and baseball provides one of the few living examples of that history: that's why the New York Yankees sport virtually the same kit now as when Babe Ruth was playing, and that's why DeLillo choses baseball as a metaphor for the American Century.

It's also to do with the game, slow-paced, baroque-ruled, very male but very graceful, statistically complex, full of evocative place names (the Brooklyn Dodgers; Fenway Park; Ebbets Field - hear how the names spell out the word America in a sentimalised backlit glow) and providing a euphoric, against-all-the-odds vocabulary of “home runs” and “hitting it out of the park”: all this suits your searching-for-the-soul-of-American-man novelist."

(Interestingly, Baddiel doesn't mention Hornby at all, and lists W.P. Kinsella as an American.)

Of course, this is a fairly stock article in any arts section, the "where are our great X novels?" And you can pretty much put anything in the place of that X: hockey, urban, Iraq, 9/11, internet, marsupial. (Which isn't to say it's a question that's never worth asking...)

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Nathan Whitlock

Nathan Whitlock is the review editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, Saturday Night and elsewhere. His novel, A Week of This: a novel in seven days, was published this spring by ECW Press.

Go to Nathan Whitlock’s Author Page