Saturday, 19 September 2009

Anyone for 'the aestheticians of painting'?

I used to lie when people asked if I had read Beyond a Boundary. I'd read a lot of A Lot of Hard Yakka and On and Off the Field and Unleashed (Jack Russell's autobiography in case you're wondering), but I hadn't read Beyond a Boundary? It wasn't possible. So I lied. All that colonialism stuff and the WG chapter? Yes, of course I've read it. And I got away with it. Every time. Why? Because I don't think many other people have read it either.

My god, it's a tough read. The toughest of all is chapter 16 'What is Art?' which is part of Part Six, 'The Art and Practic Part'. Just those titles tell you everything you need to know. Sample sentence - 'what is really significant in Michelangelo is his bounding line'. Whole pages can go by without a mention of cricket, or indeed anything remotely intelligible. I've reread the chapter and reread it again and I'm still not clear who 'Mr. Bernhard Berenson' is, or what his relation is to cricket, art or practics.

The chapter I enjoyed most was chapter 13, 'Prolegomena to WG', despite being unable to find 'prolegomena' in my Collins English Dictionary. It's a really interesting dissection of WG's importance to the development of cricket technique. Before WG, players were back players or forward players. WG was apparently the first who was comfortable playing off either foot.

Beyond a Boundary is unavoidably dated. It was first published in 1963 after all. All the stuff about WG being a pre-Victorian (or was that post-Victorian?) doesn't mean anything any more. And, let's be honest about this, it's just too damned highbrow. I don't feel too bad about not knowing what 'prolegomena' means. Beyond a Boundary may make every list of best cricket books, but I think I'll stick with Being Freddie.

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