Tag Archives: Argentina

“How Soccer Explains the World – an unlikely theory of globalization” by Franklin Foer

HAPPY first day of the World Cup 2014, in Brazil!

I didn’t mean to read this book. I bought it in a used bookstore, thinking it would appeal to my husband, but the real truth is that, if he wants a book, he already has it, so How Soccer Explains the World was low on his reading list. I snagged it in desperation when my Kindle died (see previous post). 

I was shocked to find I was reading a serious book. The cover looked warm and fuzzy (Buddhist monks watching a distant soccer match). Fortunately I read the prologue first, which said the chapters were ordered (roughly) from most serious to most optimistic.

The character of the book is also foreshadowed by its subtitle, an (unlikely) theory of globalization. To discuss globalization, it is necessary to analyze nationalism. This book combines journalism and political science to cover these subjects.

The first few chapters of the book, which dealt with soccer hooliganism, were depressing. Or frightening, depending on your mood. Chapter 1, “How soccer explains the Gangster’s Paradise” deals with the former state of Yugoslavia. Chapter 2, “How soccer explains the Pornography of Sects”, addresses the unfinished Reformation, being played out between Protestants and Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland.

Country by country, Foer dissects sport and sociology around the world. My favorite chapter describes soccer as “Islam’s Hope”. The women of Iran refused to stay home when their national team was winning.

This book is ten years old, and Foer has not published a comprehensive follow up. I really just want someone to tell me if things are getting better or worse… Foer’s Jewish Jocks, published in 2012, sounds interesting.

Now I’m going to watch the second half of Brazil vs. Croatia.

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“Veramo” by Cesar Aira – giving modernism another chance

After my cry of protest about modernism (see June 5), my son handed me a short novel by the Argentine writer and translator Cesar Aira. I started reading it “seriously”, the way I had (of necessity) tackled the work of Robert Mucil. But Aira is different. And funny! His sentences scan, though his paragraphs can be awfully long. The plot gains momentum and becomes more amusingly whimsical as it moves along. In the course of an evening, our clueless and isolated hero finds out, to his astonishment, that he has what he takes to write a book/poem. And he does it! The story is full of charming details and sly humor. So I guess I’m OK with modernism!