Thursday, May 05, 2011

Which sports produce the best literature?

In last week's books podcast on sporting literature, one guest suggested that, while cricket had probably inspired more writing than any other sport, the majority of it wasn't very good.
Either it was doggerel, or it was mired in the sentimental jingoism of Henry Newbolt's Vitai Lampada. (A special category of badness was reserved for Harold Pinter, whose two-line ode to Yorkshire batsman Len Hutton provoked one of the great put-downs from his friend Simon Gray, who, when asked by Pinter what he thought of the poem, replied "I haven't finished reading it yet" – causing much merriment in the ranks of Pinter's own Gaieties Cricket Club.)

This set us thinking about which sports bring out the best and worst in writers – and why. Is it true, for example, as Marcel Berlins has written, that "The world of boxing has initiated, and been the setting for, more top-class writing than any other sport?"

If there's one sports novel most people could cite, it's Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, with David Peace's The Damned United coming a close second. But where soccer has dominated the English literary game in recent years, Holland is arguably leading the way in cycling (Tim Krabbe's The Rider) and rowing (Hans Maarten Van Den Brink's On the Water).

Our investigations into this subject have unearthed literatures of horse racing, of baseball and even of bullfighting, but we've searched in vain for the great croquet and shot-put novels. Perhaps we're just looking in the wrong place. Please tell us what we are missing.

Guardian books blog - Posted on Monday 2 May 2011

1 comment:

Alessandra said...

This is very funny! It is clear that romance is better than sport then?!?! :-)