Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Library of Oblivion #1

Your last chance to see the books that no human eye will ever encounter again; that no charity shop, jumble sale, or car boot sale will ever again deem worth the effort of getting out of the cardboard box they rode into town on.
Any book featured in The Library of Oblivion can be yours free of charge. Simply drop me a line at matthewconiam@aol.com explaining which book you are interested in, and why you want to give it its last chance. Don't forget to include a postal address, ideally not in Australia or something.

1. Football Daft, by Michael Parkinson

I picked up Football Daft in the 10p bin of a local charity shop. Not even the fact that the world cup was in full swing was enough to deem it worthy of placement inside the shop. In a wire basket on the pavement is last chance city for paperbacks.
I hate football, but I was strangely moved by the cover, which shows the Yorkshire-born chat show host wearing a wet weather coat and a small plastic novelty hat, waving a rattle and clutching a toilet roll.
When all is said and done, I warm to Parky; he has a few annoying traits, but it's hard not to be basically well-disposed to someone who began his interviewing career chatting to the likes of Bette Davis and Orson Welles, and ended it having to pretend to crack up at Sanjeev Bhaskar, OBE.
The book itself is a series of lightly comic articles originally published in the Sunday Times; some are wry meditations on actual football personalities and topics, others are Benchleyesque flights of fancy. The book is charmingly dedicated "To anyone who is football daft", and is a semi-follow-up to an earlier book called Cricket Mad. But though it speaks primarily to the confirmed fan, it also conveys useful information to the novice, especially one with a taste for a natty simile or two: "Goalkeepers, like things that go bump in the night, defy analysis"; "wingmen, like people who thatch roofs and make clogs, are a dying breed"; "Great inside forwards, like blissful marriages, are made in heaven", and so on.


Here is a sample paragraph:

"I don't know if you've ever considered the remarkable fact that bandy legs are an asset to most sportsmen. That they help people who ride horses is a thought too obvious to need explanation. But it is not generally known that they greatly assist cricketers also. I once played in a cricket team with a man who possessed the most splendid pair of hooped legs I have yet seen."

The phrase "I have yet seen" introduces an element of optimistic speculation to the sentence, as if he hopes that he will see an even more splendid pair of hooped legs in the future. Since the book was published in 1968, it is entirely possible that he has done so in the years following.
I certainly hope so.