Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Netherland

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A Novel

by Joseph O'Neill

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill X
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
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  • First Published:
    May 2008, 272 pages

    Jun 2009, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading
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About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Netherland

Print Review

It would seem that Joseph O'Neill's secret mission in writing Netherland is to convert Americans into cricket fans. Hans, his narrator, implicitly assumes that his readers are not familiar with the game, and long passages are given over to (rather aggrievedly) pointing to its illustrious history and explaining its subtleties. Herewith, for those who know baseball but not cricket, a few additional pointers on a game that Bill Bryson calls "a sport that is enjoyed by millions, some of them awake and facing the right way."

Like baseball, someone throws a ball and another person bats at it, but the similarities, for the most part, end there. Cricket is played on a circular field and the play extends in all directions. The batter is out when the ball hits one of three poles behind him known as stumps, so batting is as much defensive as offensive. Bowling more closely resembles tennis or golf because the bowler bounces the ball off the pitch on its way to the batter, and can use the pitch and its properties, as well as his arm and hand positions, to shape the ball's trajectory. But the batter also has a repertoire of skills for finessing the ball across the field. Batters skillfully ease the ball through the grass, rather than whacking the ball as hard as possible through the air.

The field, then, is of utmost importance to a proper cricket match. Chuck Ramkissoon disdains the field in Staten Island for its clay covered with coconut matting, calling it "bush cricket," and this explains why he lavishes attention on the grass of his own field in Queens. Only grass fields "can fully challenge and reward a bowler's repertoire of cutters and spinners and bouncers and seamers, and only these, in turn, can bring out and fully test a batsman's repertoire of defensive and attacking strokes, not to mention his mental powers".

Still confused?

  • Check out this website for the transmutational method of deriving cricket from baseball—kind of like word golf that goes, step by step, from the American sport to the British one.
  • Watch cricketing highlights at blogspot.

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    Article by Amy Reading

    This "beyond the book article" relates to Netherland. It originally ran in June 2008 and has been updated for the June 2009 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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