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Sat Nov 01 07:22:12 SAST 2014

Cricketing spin on fiction works

Andrew Donaldson | 11 December, 2012 00:01
Book store. File photo
Image by: ANDY CLARK / REUTERS

If you read one book this week

Chinaman, by Shehan Karunatilaka (Vintage) R195

It's not a sport you'd associate with great fiction, but Sri Lankan Karunatilaka's delightful debut should change all that. It's heartwarming and morbidly funny, as much about friendship, marriage and civil war as it is about cricket. Ageing sportswriter WG "Wije" Karunasena has been told to give up drinking or die. However, ignoring all - doctors, family, friends - he embarks on a last, quixotic quest to find a near-mythic spin bowler whose career was cruelly cut short by "politics, racism, power cuts, and plain bad luck". Just the sort of thing to while away time before the Kiwis get here.

THE ISSUE

The madness of Mangaung has sparked a certain amount of attention in books on politics and current affairs, particularly on the ANC and President Jacob Zuma. All very ho-hum and predictable, perhaps.

But one book that anyone who has a material stake in the ruling party should perhaps read is American scholar Stephen T Asma's Against Fairness (University of Chicago) which strives to show that, in the pursuit of egalitarian principles ("demo-cracy", "open markets", et al), we have suppressed our natural tendencies to favour certain people over others, and we would all be better off if we let our unfair tendencies govern our decision-making.

It's all illogical bollocks, of course. Asma's book, critics point out, fails to mention the unhappy demises of regimes and societies that are undemocratic and nepotistic. Neither does it spell out how favouritism can do anything other than entrench existing privilege.

CRASH COURSE

Over the past 20 years or so, television drama has not only crept out from under the shadow of the cinema but in many instances has considerably outclassed its celluloid rival. Shows like The Sopranos, Oz, Deadwood, The Wire, Mad Men and Breaking Bad ushered in a golden age of the goggle box - and also the rise of a nerdish blogger, one Alan Sepinwall, who went on to become this new wave's uber-critic, its Pauline Kael, if you will.

His self-published The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever (available as a Kindle book), which chronicles this transformation in pop culture with great insight and depth, has become a surprise digital success, with such august publications as New Yorker praising it for "making a lucid case for the auteurist mentality among modern showrunners". If anything, it's a great guide on how entertainment works.

THE BOTTOM LINE

"I don't cook breakfast with my bass strapped on, and I've been known to take it to bed with me only once or twice in really desperate times." - The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran, by John Taylor with Tom Sykes (Dutton).

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