Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Global Game meets the simplest game part 1

John Turnbull is the editor of a colourful, often beautiful and equally riotous, truly international, collection of football writing called The Global Game. What I’ve read of it is fantastic. When I’m done I will certainly include a review here. John and his friends in football, Thom Satterlee and Alon Raab, have done something that's a little special. Ye see, for the first time, that I know of anyway, someone has taken the time to seek out and translate football writing from around the world and put it in the one place. It's like a sampler, only smarter. With something to read from, and an introduction to, each author. It's an education, that's entertaining. And that's the way we like it here at thesimplestgame.

They aren’t all fiction. Some are just straight out quality football writing. There’s work in there by the likes of Mario Vargas Llosa, Gunter Grass, Simon Kuper, Ian Jack, Ted Hughes and Elvis Costello. There’s a whole lot more. Writers from all over the world. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking at the book in much closer detail as well as adding some of the answers John Turnbull gave me when thesimplestgame approached him to discuss his work.

The sites are well worth looking at too. Here’s a link to The Global Game - soccer writers site.You can buy the book there too.

Thesimplestgame really like the site, what motivated you and your colleagues to kick it off?

John Turnbull: Certainly there is a promotional aspect to the Web-based material, but, speaking for myself, I wanted to use interactive tools and especially podcasting to reduce the artificial separation between anthology editors and contributors. We are lucky to live in a time when such connections can be made with relative ease. Given that it was our intent in the book to draw on material from cultures and languages unfamiliar to Americans, it was inevitable that we would include selections from writers that we, as an isolated country, had never heard of before.

For example, within the book and via Internet telephony - in a podcast on the Writers on Soccer microsite - we have the chance to hear from Elísabet Jökulsdottír of Reykjavík comparing the mystery of football to the mystery of the ocean. After our conversation, she said that she had never spoken before with an interviewer from North America. That her name and her work might reach a broader audience alone is one reason for the book and accompanying Web site.
I also spoke to Uroš Zupan of Slovenia. It would be an oversimplification to say that his prose makes him the Nick Hornby of Central Europe, but he does cite Fever Pitch as at least partial inspiration for essays on overlapping recollections of World Cup tournaments and of his upbringing in the former Yugoslavia. I was able to speak with him about his 2007 book, Textbook Panini, and how he grades both teams and players via a private set of aesthetic criteria. Interesting that, for Hornby, Arsenal Football Club to some extent
shaped his identity as well as his attitude to the wider world. Zupan, in contrast, samples from the menu on offer without prejudice as to nationalities, perhaps a trait acquired from having lived in a culture of restrictions. But, more likely, he is probably just curious.

There’s a whole lot more to come from John Turnbull - too much for one blog. Thesimplestgame are very grateful to John for his generosity and his time and look forward to many more electronic conversations with a man who, it has to be said, really knows his football writing. We're also grateful for the opportunity to put Elvis Costello and Gunter Grass in the same blog.

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