Joseph O'Neill is King of New York! The Times Book Review puts his novel Netherland on the cover — in a review by TBR senior editor Dwight Garner, no less — and calls it "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had" about post-9/11 life. Michiko Kakutani calls it "stunning" and compares it quite seriously with The Great Gatsby. And James Wood, in The New Yorker, gives it the kind of serious yet adulatory review writers dream of, calling it "one of the most remarkable post-colonial books I have ever read," comparing O'Neill to Rushdie (!) and Naipaul (!!), and for all intents and purposes telling the Booker committee to maybe relax the rules this year and give their prize to a Dutchman. (Hey, he was born in Ireland! Maybe he's eligible!)
We're most interested, though, by the fact that the novel takes as its central dramatic engine the efforts of a cricket team in New York City. (This Times piece on O'Neill's cricket team from Saturday helped him hit the rare NYT trifecta.) We've long been fascinated by cricket, even though we don't at all understand how it is played. (Our nanny, who is from Jamaica, just tried to explain the rules to us, making her the 100th person to fail at that task.) We've particularly been interested in the games played by mostly West Indian immigrants in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, near our neighborhood.
The likely bestsellerdom of Netherland suggests to us that it's only a matter of time before all of our hipster friends start picking up the game. It's the perfect sequel to the recent hipster microtrend of bocce: It combines old-world charm with Third World grittiness; it encourages the wearing of dandyish clothing; it utilizes a skill (hitting a ball) that many hipsters already have from childhoods in Little League; played casually, it doesn't demand a high standard of athleticism, and in fact encourages standing around and drinking. We expect the grassy open spaces of Prospect Park to be filled with twentysomething Americans in dress whites by the end of the summer. And we're excited to read Netherland, which it seems might be the best novel about cricket since Douglas Adams's Life, the Universe, and Everything.
The Ashes [NYTBR]
Post 9/11, a New York of Gatsby-Size Dreams and Loss [NYT]
Beyond a Boundary [NYer]
Pen in One Hand, Cricket Bat in the Other [NYT]