1p Book Review: Beyond a Boundary by CLR James

Dabbler reader Steve Buckley recommends a cricket classic, sometimes described as “the greatest sports book ever written”…

In his 1965 article ‘How to Build a Cricket Library’, John Arlott had Beyond a Boundary by CLR James as one of his essential twenty books on the game. Does anyone read it anymore? You can buy it here for a penny.

Arlott describes the ‘great sweep and depth’ of the book. Partly autobiographical, partly history – particularly of West Indies cricket – partly appreciation. Most readers recognise that the book is essentially about philosophy with the essential theme outlined by James in his preface – ‘what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?’

I’m sorry not to be able to find the print with a foreword by Mike Brearley who, rightly, acknowledges the book as both a classic of cricket literature and fascinating contribution to aesthetics and social history. James demands that cricket (and, to a lesser extent, sport in general) should not be apologised for but take its place as an art, ‘not a bastard or a poor relation but a full member of the community.’

Does cricket in the West Indies still act as an instrument of reform and political-social interaction as James argues? Apparently, more people saw the first day of the 2,000th test than saw the entire West Indies v India series earlier this year. The obituaries for test cricket outside of England and Australia are being prepared – how different it once was.

Would you like to recommend one of the countless great books that can now be bought online for a penny? Email editorial@thedabbler.co.uk with your review.
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2 thoughts on “1p Book Review: Beyond a Boundary by CLR James

  1. Worm
    July 29, 2011 at 12:58

    I note that the most recent paperback was published in 2005, so some people must still be reading it! I also see that Beyond a Boundary reached number 3 in the Observer Sport Monthly’s poll of the best fifty sports books of all time. This review ties in neatly with James Hamilton’s piece earlier this week about the importance of sport beyond sport.

  2. jameshamilton1968@googlemail.com'
    James Hamilton
    July 29, 2011 at 14:05

    Yes, yes, yes, people are STILL reading it – and the other principle James cricketing volume. More people per head play cricket in south-east Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, and the Edinburgh Central Library’s copies go in and out like, erm, wrong image, but you know what I mean.

    Sadly, those copies don’t have the Brearley intro either – in fact, I’d no idea he’d done that, and now I have to go to the National Library of Scotland to read it.

    Interesting about James feeling that cricket should be considered as an art like the others. Ordinarily, I’d protest: sport doesn’t need faux promotion into something worthy of a Guardianista to have a proper role, and cricket has after all spawned a literature in a way most sports couldn’t dream of. To say nothing of all those bucolic paintings from the eighteenth century on… but this is C.L.R. James, and he didn’t make crude or snobbish comparisons of that kind.

    I wonder if he would have been the first author of this series who one could guarantee taking pleasure in the availability of his work for 1p?

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