sorry, seemed to be some gremlins. Apologies if this is the second time this has appeared for you.
Further to yesterday’s waffle, it occurred to me that I was unduly harsh on Julian Barnes. I think he’s tarred by the Amis/McEwan brush, and while they write perfectly good books, they seem to be writing for and about other people. A central tenet of fiction writing seems to be that your characters should be drawn in a way that makes readers take an interest in them, perhaps even want to be them. It’s why we read Kerouac when we’re young and get all starry eyed, why Holden Caulfield resonates with teenagers so much, why Henry Miller can play weird tricks on our minds, why Hunter S Thompson is such a hero to so many. You don’t even have to admire these characters, but there has to be something about them that you identify with or tap into.
McEwan and Amis are gifted writers but their characters are a million miles away from anything I’ve come across or am interested in. So while I appreciate that they write good books, they’re not good books for me. Which brings things like the Booker Prize into question: all of these are good books, but what makes one better than the other? It depends on how you’re judging them. This can’t really be broken down (we’ve heard about the panel looking for ‘page-turners’ but this smells fishy) so leaves lots of room for interpretation and disagreement.
As we said yesterday, we get the same for footballers. So a player might be a good player, but might not be a good player for all of us, owing to our own personal set of parameters.
If you are Martin Jol your criteria for each player might be:
Helps the team win football matches
Can be relied upon
Does what I tell him
And he’ll have more specific things in mind for each position. Pick up any general coaching manual and you’ll find a list of attributes for each role: coaches then adapt these to the systems and the players they have available. So if the archetypal right-back should have good defensive qualities, pace, stamina, and the ability to join attacks, Jol has to decide which of these he prioritises most. If he (or his system) needs pace he will look at someone like Chris Baird and have to make a decision about what he can accept and what he can’t: Baird has little pace, but good distribution and is otherwise solid; Jol has to decide whether this is acceptable to him, and if it isn’t, Baird doesn’t get to play right-back. And so on.
As fans we have other criteria. The commonly held stereotype of an English fan’s ideals might be:
Runs around a lot/Gets ‘stuck in’
Claps us afterwards
Does important things in high-profile situations
Avoids glaring mistakes
Another fan might look for:
Players who aren’t afraid to try things
Players who take people on
Players who don’t take things too seriously
Personally I like players who:
Other people don’t seem to like as much
Have something to prove
Seem like nice people
Play in a pleasing manner
(So I’m a big Gecov fan at the moment)
Where is this all going? Just, I suppose, to reaffirm that we really all do look at the same thing in different ways. This is obvious, of course, but we shouldn’t be blind to these biases, either. Which is an odd thing to say, except most of us spend far more time than is healthy discussing various footballers and a little pondering has helped me to understand why other people see things differently to me. As individuals we’re the product of a million influences that mean different things affect us in different ways: as best I can tell, women tend not to like Philip Roth’s books; men can’t understand why anyone would watch Sex and the City deliberately. Both of these things have value, but different value to different people. Same goes for football, I think.