Cricket and the President

obamaIt’s been a few weeks since a piece in the New York Times magazine mentioned that Barack Obama was using Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland as a break from security briefings, and according to a Newsweek interview that ran today, the President is still working his way through the 254 page paperback. (Of course, he’s probably been busy with other stuff.)


What are you reading?
I’m reading this book called Netherland by Joseph O’Neill … It’s about after 9/11, a guy—his family leaves him and he takes up cricket in New York. And it’s fascinating. It’s a wonderful book, although I know nothing about cricket.

And as you divide up your time, when do you steal the time to do that?
I’m a night owl. My usual day [is]: I work out in the morning; I get to the office around 9, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; work till about 6:30 p.m.; have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids and put them to bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I’ll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half hour to read before I go to bed … about midnight, 12:30 a.m.—sometimes a little later.

The book is surely the most mainstream American treatment of cricket since World War One, when, as O’Neill himself notes, “[American cricket] went into sharp decline for complicated reasons.” If Obama is more concerned with the White Sox than the Indian Premier League, what do people who do care about cricket think about Netherland? reviewed the book when it came out last year. The site’s UK editor seemed surprised that the United States had produced a book that dealt with the game so intelligently, even if the author was not born here. Of a passage near the front of the book, he wrote: “One passage in particular is worth quoting in full, for if there has been a more vivid portrait of the game’s traditional rhythms, I have yet to hear it.”

How fine to have a President who not only doesn’t mind reading fiction, but fiction about a game he has experimented with only as a photo op. And how reassuring that, if he is learning about cricket, O’Neill is such a reliable source.


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