Beyond a Boundary: 50th Anniversary Edition (The C. L. R. James Archives) Info

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This new edition of C. L. R. James's classic Beyond a
Boundary
celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of one of the greatest
books on sport and culture ever written.

Named one of the Top 50
Sports Books of All Time by Sports
Illustrated

"Beyond a Boundary . . . should find
its place on the team with Izaak Walton, Ivan Turgenev, A. J. Liebling,
and Ernest Hemingway."—Derek Walcott, The New York
Times Book Review

"As a player, James the writer was
able to see in cricket a metaphor for art and politics, the collective
experience providing a focus for group effort and individual
performance. . . . [In] his scintillating memoir of his life in cricket,
Beyond a Boundary (1963), James devoted some of his finest pages
to this theme."—Edward Said, The Washington
Post

"A work of double reverence—for the
resilient, elegant ritualism of cricket and for the black people of the
world."—Whitney Balliett, The New
Yorker

"Beyond a Boundary is a book of
remarkable richness and force, which vastly expands our understanding of
sports as an element of popular culture in the Western and colonial
world."—Mark Naison, The
Nation

"Everything James has done has had the mark of
originality, of his own flexible, sensitive, and deeply cultured
intelligence. He conveys not a rigid doctrine but a delight and
curiosity in all the manifestations of life, and the clue to everything
lies in his proper appreciation of the game of
cricket."—E. P. Thompson, author of The Making of
the English Working Class

"Beyond a Boundary is .
. . first and foremost an autobiography of a living
legend—probably the greatest social theorist of our
times."—Manning Marable, Journal of Sport &
Social Issues

"The great triumph of Beyond a
Boundary
is its ability to rise above genre and in its very form
explore the complex nature of colonial West Indian
society."—Caryl Phillips, The New
Republic


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Reviews for Beyond a Boundary: 50th Anniversary Edition (The C. L. R. James Archives):

5

Aug 25, 2011

What can one learn from this book, when one knows nothing of cricket? In my case, a hell of a lot. James presumes that the reader knows a lot about cricket; various legends such as Bradman, Grace, Worrell, Headley, et al. are referred to by surname only. But such lacunae can be filled swiftly by means of Wikipedia.

What really matters here are the larger claims James makes regarding the cultural significance of Trinidad's most popular sport. Every few pages, I'd stumble upon a paragraph that What can one learn from this book, when one knows nothing of cricket? In my case, a hell of a lot. James presumes that the reader knows a lot about cricket; various legends such as Bradman, Grace, Worrell, Headley, et al. are referred to by surname only. But such lacunae can be filled swiftly by means of Wikipedia.

What really matters here are the larger claims James makes regarding the cultural significance of Trinidad's most popular sport. Every few pages, I'd stumble upon a paragraph that made the case for studying sports/"pop culture" far better than anything I'd ever seen before. The technical discussions of cricket would drag a bit, but even those were noteworthy, given James' background as a cricketer of above average skill--there simply weren't any books on sports in the early 60s, not even Liebling's stylish essays on boxing, in which it is clear the author understands the practice of the sport as well as James understands cricket.

And then you get to this passage, the highlight of the book and a sentiment that I share:

"All art, science, philosophy, are modes of apprehending the world, history, and society. as one of these, cricket in the West Indies could hold its own. A professor of political science publicly bewailed that a man of my known political interests should believe that cricket had ethical and social values. I had no wish to answer. I was just sorry for the guy."

Also, read this: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisf...

Of the nonfiction books I've reviewed on here since 2009, this is the best. Ten or fifteen paragraphs can't do it justice. A masterpiece in every sense. The US has yet to produce a book on sports of this caliber, though I'm sure all of you have high hopes for my pro wrestling monograph. ...more
5

Oct 23, 2011

So this book was difficult for me not because it wasn't beautifully written or analytical (it was both) but because I don't understand the sport of cricket. That was part of why I chose to read this book - I wanted to see how a sport I didn't know anything about, played in countries I know very little about - played out in terms of race, politics, and class. James's writing style is lyrical perfection - it is flawless without being pedantic, pretentious, or precious. He writes about a sport that So this book was difficult for me not because it wasn't beautifully written or analytical (it was both) but because I don't understand the sport of cricket. That was part of why I chose to read this book - I wanted to see how a sport I didn't know anything about, played in countries I know very little about - played out in terms of race, politics, and class. James's writing style is lyrical perfection - it is flawless without being pedantic, pretentious, or precious. He writes about a sport that he was passionate about and deeply involved in - not just as a writer and a fan but as a political actor. He was instrumental in the installation of the first Black captain on the West Indies team, and understood the potential of the sport to be a vehicle for West Indian independence and Black ascendancy. Early in the book, James describes his relationship to the sport as a boy growing up - the segregated clubs, the injustices visited upon Black and Brown cricketers - and later on, he delves into the psychology of the sport and it's inherently political nature. The recurring theme of the book is "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" Which is a meditation on the colonial relationship of the colonized not only to the colonizer, but to themselves. In our society we tend to depoliticize sport, but professional sport especially serves as a vehicle to uphold and glorify the status quo. This book, and the film Fire in Babylon, are powerful reminders that sport has other functions - a challenge to the status quo, an avenue for cultural and personal expression and aspirations, not only of the players but of peoples or nations. Sport was one of the first venues in which oppressed people could demonstrate equality and even dominance. However, this was inevitably reinterpreted through a racist and eugenically based lens - physical superiority was interpreted as a racial characteristic. Sadly, racism is mutable and creative, and thus our responses to it must also be. ...more
0

May 03, 2017

Tyler Cowen writes: "Many people consider this the best book on cricket ever written. I cannot judge that, but it is a stellar sports book, colonialism book, and most of all a Caribbean Bildungsroman (Trinidad), definitely recommended to anyone with interests in those areas. Beautifully written..." http://marginalrevolution.com/margina...
4

Aug 08, 2016

This is probably now my favorite book about sports, because it views sports as an expression of social and political passions. With a determination to avoid high/low art distinctions, and the class prejudice they imply, James also looks at cricket through the lens of aesthetic theories of art and movement.

The politics of cricket he sees in two ways. One perhaps is more predictable: he sees the games often as an arena in which larger social conflicts are played out relatively safely (this is This is probably now my favorite book about sports, because it views sports as an expression of social and political passions. With a determination to avoid high/low art distinctions, and the class prejudice they imply, James also looks at cricket through the lens of aesthetic theories of art and movement.

The politics of cricket he sees in two ways. One perhaps is more predictable: he sees the games often as an arena in which larger social conflicts are played out relatively safely (this is particularly the case in the West Indies in the period he describes, when cricket clubs there were very much divided along class and racial lines--and also in international matches in the immediately pre-independence period). The other, less obviously, is to see a discipline and set of values in cricket that are inculcated in the players, which although he explains its conservative purpose in origin, he also sees as having provided a sense of teamwork and discipline that helped make an anti-colonialist movement possible.

In James's account, it was cricket that led him to politics.

To be honest, there were parts of this that dragged for me; I didn't to much relish the account of batting and bowling techniques of players I may or may not have heard of. But the book is never simply about that. The great section on WG Grace, for example--a kind of Babe Ruth of cricket--discusses how he was very much a part and product of the Victorian age, but also provided something of a pre-industrial, bucolic, unregulated Britain that people in places like Manchester felt missing.

James argues that historians who ignored WG Grace in writing the history of Victorian England had thereby rendered their work inadequate. It's basically an argument for "bottom-up" social history--along with cultural criticism that feels surprisingly contemporary (the book was published in 1962). And it's a brilliant, wonderfully eloquent argument at that. ...more
4

Jun 12, 2014

What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?

Widely acknowledged as the greatest book on cricket ever written, 'Beyond the Boundary' is CLR James' cogent argument that cricket goes beyond the boundary; and plays a great role in not just shaping men, but also a national identity. It is a book on cricket, but more than that. Part memoir, part history, part social text.

Above all, it is a book about a man deeply in love with a game of cricket.

If you love the game in its purest, simplest form, What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?

Widely acknowledged as the greatest book on cricket ever written, 'Beyond the Boundary' is CLR James' cogent argument that cricket goes beyond the boundary; and plays a great role in not just shaping men, but also a national identity. It is a book on cricket, but more than that. Part memoir, part history, part social text.

Above all, it is a book about a man deeply in love with a game of cricket.

If you love the game in its purest, simplest form, then this is the book. ...more
5

Jul 30, 2010

For a great philosopher and keen memoirist, it is amazing how much style CLR James has. Reading this book, almost more than his wonderful inquiry into West Indies cricket and what it meant for race, class and masculinity, I was left admiring his writing, a fine balance between High Victorian and mid-20th century journalism, and knowing that I was in the presence of a master.
4

Feb 20, 2012

"What do men live by?" and "What is art?" are my favorite chapters from this classic book which poses the question "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?".Yet,one has to accept that only those who know cricket can read this book.
5

Jul 30, 2011

Brilliant - what a writer! Each chapter moves from ideas on cricket to post-colonialism and leftist thought with an incredible clarity of expression and thought.

4

Mar 07, 2018

I struggled through the first half of the book, having little to do with cricket. In the second half, I encountered possibly the most beautiful sports writing I've ever read. Here is a shining example.

"Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belongs with the theatre, ballet, opera and the dance … It is so organized that at all times it is compelled to reproduce the central action which characterizes all good drama from the days of the Greeks to our own; two individuals are pitted I struggled through the first half of the book, having little to do with cricket. In the second half, I encountered possibly the most beautiful sports writing I've ever read. Here is a shining example.

"Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belongs with the theatre, ballet, opera and the dance … It is so organized that at all times it is compelled to reproduce the central action which characterizes all good drama from the days of the Greeks to our own; two individuals are pitted against each other in a conflict that is strictly personal but no less strictly representative of a social group. One individual batsman faces one individual bowler. But each represents his side. For that moment, to all intents and purposes, he is the side. This fundamental relation of the One and the Many, Individual and Social, Individual and Universal, leader and followers, representative and ranks, the part and the whole, is structurally imposed on the players of cricket. Thus the game is founded upon a dramatic, a human, relation which is universally recognized as the most objectively pervasive and psychologically stimulating in life and therefore in that artificial representation of it which is drama."

This is possibly the pinnacle of sports writing. DFW doesn't come close. ...more
4

Jul 23, 2015

This has long been required reading - and not just for cricket lovers. It is much more than a book about cricket, though that is its dominant theme.

The problems of growing up in the Caribbean, journalism, Greek mytholofy, sculpture, politics all claim attention. Karl Marx is present but is overshadowed by W G Grace and Don Bradman. Learie Constantine and George Headley are recurring figures as the author seeks to embrace both art ad philosophy.

The in the long, key 16th chapter, the author seeks This has long been required reading - and not just for cricket lovers. It is much more than a book about cricket, though that is its dominant theme.

The problems of growing up in the Caribbean, journalism, Greek mytholofy, sculpture, politics all claim attention. Karl Marx is present but is overshadowed by W G Grace and Don Bradman. Learie Constantine and George Headley are recurring figures as the author seeks to embrace both art ad philosophy.

The in the long, key 16th chapter, the author seeks to lift cricket out of context and place it on a level with any artistic activity. Beyond a Boundary is not an easy read. It wasn't intend to be. ...more
4

Jun 04, 2012

I'm too far removed from the author to fully appreciate this book. This memoir is written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with his articles on cricket, is as avid fan of the game of cricket and an avid reader. Well, I have the third qualification for this book except that I haven't read his favorite book: Vanity Fair. To someone who follows cricket will come away with much more from reading this book.
5

Jul 27, 2011

Not just the greatest book about sport ever written, but also one of the best about Marxism, postcolonialism, the Carribean, the north of England, and cultural history. It's a masterpiece.
4

Apr 18, 2018

God help me, I do not understand cricket. People have explained the rules to me numerous times and they just don’t seem to stick in my brain. It sounds like a combination of bowling and that baseball training game “pickle” (which honestly is a lot more fun than baseball itself, especially played with a larger bouncy ball) with some extras... but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

Why then, you may be forgiven for asking, did I read a whole book about cricket? Because it turned up on a God help me, I do not understand cricket. People have explained the rules to me numerous times and they just don’t seem to stick in my brain. It sounds like a combination of bowling and that baseball training game “pickle” (which honestly is a lot more fun than baseball itself, especially played with a larger bouncy ball) with some extras... but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

Why then, you may be forgiven for asking, did I read a whole book about cricket? Because it turned up on a library free pile and was written by one of the great intellectuals of the twentieth century: the Trinidadian historian, novelist, and radical C.L.R. James. James had one of those crazy twentieth century lives that just seemed to be everywhere and do everything, even though he wasn’t especially long-lived. Migrating between Britain, the US, and the West Indies, he was one of the intellectual godfathers of post-Garvey pan-africanism, started and led one of the major Trotskyite tendencies in the US, and was a major figure in the Trinidadian independence struggle. He launched the historiographical reappraisal of the Haitian Revolution. He wrote one of the definitive interpretations of Moby-Dick while sitting in a detention center within sight of the Statue of Liberty, waiting to be deported from the US. He was the first black Caribbean novelist published in the UK.

He was also a fan of and writer about cricket. “Beyond a Boundary,” one of James’s last books and published posthumously, is partially a memoirs of his own experience with the game and partially an informal history of the game in the West Indies. It’s one of those books that could be called “belle lettres,” i.e. respectable but unclassifiable literary productions. We hear about James’s struggles between the aspirations put on him by his status-conscious lower-middle-class family in Trinidad and the young Cyril’s desire to play cricket and read novels rather than bother with placement exams. Trinidad being small and at the same time one of the great producers of cricket talent, James (and seemingly any interested Trinidadian) could get to know some of the great cricketers of the world.

And that’s a problem, because I do not know the name of any cricket players other than Tendulkar, a contemporary Indian cricketer who is at least half-seriously regarded by some Hindus as a worthy addition to their pantheon, and C.L.R. James, who played fairly seriously at the amateur level. James is enough of a great writer to get me to care about these people who are just new names to me. But he also assumes the reader knows who they are, who are the points of comparison in terms of cricketers past, and most of all, cricket terms. Even to the extent I understand the rules, I don’t know the terms for the plays and techniques etc, and naturally, in a finely-grained discussion of the game, that’s going to come up a lot. It was pretty confusing even as I could tell James was writing about it masterfully.

Of course, being a political figure and a radical, James tied cricket back into politics, and I somewhat got that. Cricket was the game of the imperialists, still mostly played in the old Empire. Even when imperial possessions — first white dominions like Australia, then out and out colonies like India and the West Indies — started beating England, it was still beating them at literally their own game.

The game brought with it a value system — roughly, the variant on stoic sportsmanship common in English public schools at the time — that James feels serious ambivalence towards. On the one hand, as a radical he rebukes England, the empire, the bourgeoisie, the racial politics that warped the West Indian cricket world for some time. On the other, James can’t lose — doesn’t want to — his attachment to aspects of the code that came with a space of conflict that is as hard-fought as the tooth and nail of class struggle but without rancor, granting honor to the other side and respecting adjudication from referees. The struggles he lived for — the overthrow of capitalism, black liberation — couldn’t be that way. But there’s something beyond escape to another, nicer plane that the code has to offer. I just wish I could parse more of his cricket examples so I could tell what he thinks they are. ****

https://toomuchberard.wordpress.com/2... ...more
5

Oct 11, 2016

Beyond A Boundary, by the renowned Trinidadian Marxist Pan-Africanist CLR James, is a blend of autobiography anchored through cricket, in which he shows explicitly that cricket is sometimes not just cricket, but a wider commentary on social relations that span gender, class, race, and locale. Written in 1963, it reflects on his journey from a young man of the black lower middle class in Trinidad who had a twin obsession with cricket and what he terms Puritanism, or a strict adherence to cultural Beyond A Boundary, by the renowned Trinidadian Marxist Pan-Africanist CLR James, is a blend of autobiography anchored through cricket, in which he shows explicitly that cricket is sometimes not just cricket, but a wider commentary on social relations that span gender, class, race, and locale. Written in 1963, it reflects on his journey from a young man of the black lower middle class in Trinidad who had a twin obsession with cricket and what he terms Puritanism, or a strict adherence to cultural norms, and on the other hand an ardent rebel streak which he pursues through a lifelong education as a Marxist author and revolutionary, that takes him to Britain, the United States, Ghana, and back to Trinidad. He begins in the Trotskyist left, moves through those circles as a major thinker within the 4th (Trotskyist) International, before breaking with Trotskyism and embracing Marxist Pan-Africanism, arguing for liberatory anti-capitalist Black Nationalist movements. All the while, cricket is the constant backdrop, and he framed cricket as a first love, in a similar way to Ecuadorian revolutionary author Eduardo Galeano links soccer to liberation. He explicitly links cricket’s development in the Anglophone West Indies to the embrace of black power to rebalance power. In the end, the book is both a story of his own life to that point and a love letter to cricket and why sports should matter to anyone interested in a truly liberated society.
Widely panned anywhere from the Bible of cricketers, to the best cricket book ever written, to the overall best sports book ever written, it is clear that James considered cricket to be a core part of his being, and traced his early days playing and the people around him. Much of the book explored great black cricketers who had no chance to play at the upper levels or burst the gates open on their talent alone. Early on, he realized that, though cricket felt pure to him in ways that other parts of Trinidad was tainted with class and race discrimination, cricket reflected that society. The game was imported by the British in the 19th century as a general promotion of Britishness and in order to civilize all non-white subjects within the Empire. James looked at the history of cricket in Trinidad and the rest of the West Indies, as the black and brown middle classes embraced it as a way of belonging in the empire, forming separate clubs based on color and class (10). The rational game, with a calm British bourgeois demeanor of the “stiff upper lip” that seem to fly in the face of the more celebratory Trinidadian culture, centers James’s early life, as he reads voraciously cricket articles from Vanity Faire (18). Though his family disapproved of playing games and disapproved of darker players, James himself later in life made the connections. He noted that some clubs in Trinidad tended to exclude based purely on race, while others excluded more on class, though most had exclusionary policies that mixed both. Of course, the elite levels of cricket play and the high fees paid to cricketers in England continued to attract cricketers of all colors, and inspiring hope for young Trinidadians such as James (50)
When James leaves Trinidad to work as a cricket journalist in England in 1933, he continued to talk cricket even as he moved into more radical political circles. He remembered that even as he became more radical, he clung to traditional views of cricket, arguing with a colleague that the selection of a captain of the elite Trinidadian Shannon club should be based on the man best suited for the job, and not just to have a black captain because there had never been one before (57). He would later reverse this position to argue for cricketers represented larger factors than just the individual. They played roles with charged social significance, metaphors for both the reinforcing of social norms and the potential to flip them of their head (66), to mix my metaphors. James also noticed cricket had a uniting power over immigrants of all kinds who were arriving in the West Indies to participate, even as they encountered barriers. Cricket helped slowly break those barriers down (63).
James also recognized there were certain cultural differences within him from growing up in a British sphere, which he termed “Puritanism”, such as the behavior he observed at a baseball game in the United States, where there was much confrontational behavior he generally did see in cricket. Fans yelling at players or umpires, players and managers arguing with umpires, and all in-between (43). He also was shaken by the 1950 collegiate basketball bribe scandal, in which it was uncovered that players at multiple colleges had accepted kickbacks to throw games or play at colleges, while his American colleagues seemed to shrug their shoulders at. He observed there was a general antiestablishment streak and distrust of elders within Americans, that he did not really observe in England or Trinidad. As he moved towards building a of Pan-Africanist Marxism, he deposits that it is no coincidence with the rise of democratic institutions in the late 19th century, sports as a mass popular institution also rose, out of the domain of the upper and middle classes. Thus, the most popular sports are the ones that were most accessible to the general population (153). While institutional sports were originally a meeting place of the morals of the middle class and the athleticism of the aristocracy, the ability of working class people to attend and form clubs of their own helped sports become an expression of working class culture. James flipped the normal script of the old left that sports were a distraction from real struggles to that sports were an expression of real struggles, and it was a huge mistake to abandon sports or use them for cynical statist means (James always rejected Stalinism and the Soviet Union as another means of crushing workers.) Common people want games and accessible entertainment, and therefore sports for the people must be part of a revolutionary program and struggle (152). James saw the institutions as another platform to battles with injustice, which predated the rise of the 1970s West Indies cricket dynasty. He compared cricket to ballet, opera, theater, and dance in its artistic movements, and therefore sports are art for the people (195). Thus, CLR James predates much of the theory around sports which has arisen in the last twenty years by leftist theorists and journalists such as Zirin.
I recently watched a documentary on cricket in New Guinea, Cricket As Conflict Resolution Ritual, in which tribal New Guineans had adopted cricket and turned into a larger communal version, full of dance, song, and anticolonial local style as opposed to the original British game. I must admit that my knowledge of cricket is still somewhat limited, especially the rules. After reading this book, and having watched the documentary Fire In Babylon about the 1970s West Indies national team, which was an expression of black power in defeating the English national team, my knowledge of the incracies of both the rules and the social implications of cricket have grown. While the British Empire builders thought that cricket would civilize the locals in similar ways that railroad or Anglicanism might, as much the other two, cricket was turned on its head and transformed into a project of change. James successfully argued for a position not common amongst serious Marxists of the day, which is that sport was an endeavor worth building and participating in order to get mass participation in revolutionary change. Furthermore, Ruck, in Race Ball, argued that the reason the Dominican Republic rose to be a baseball powerhouse was because of cricket playing black immigrants from the Lower Antilles, whose children adopted baseball to claim a Dominican identity. They rose to dominance as highly discriminated against minorities often do in sports. Thus understanding the baseball playing Caribbean and the cricket playing Caribbean is critical to understanding cultural and social histories of the region.
Of course, it would have helped my reading of this book had I better background in cricket, as some of the explanations of why cricketers were great went over my head in a way that probably would change if I watched an entire cricket match at any point in my life. Indeed, the basic explanation in the introduction of terms like what a century is (scoring a hundred points by a play in a single turn) is enormously helpful. Both the passion, revolutionary zeal, and introduction to cricket by James to the reader summarizes why this book is considered a classic political read, cricket book, and general sports book. James is considered one of the foundational thinkers in subaltern studies. Writing in 1963, his political linkage of black power in sports predates the “Revolt of Athlete” by a few years, as global anticolonial, civil rights struggles, and antiauthoritarian struggles heated up globally. James showed that it was possible to be both a revolutionary and a sports fan.
...more
5

Jan 18, 2015

I enjoyed this immensely. I know just enough about cricket that it made some kind of sporting sense -- though I confess that there's was an entire chapter on Bradman and the body-line where I really had no idea what the hell James was talking about. Mostly though, James's enthusiasm carried me along the crest of a lyrical use of words in unfamiliar contexts and meanings, descriptions of overs and strokes and other barely understood marks of poetry and genius. Growing up with three brothers made I enjoyed this immensely. I know just enough about cricket that it made some kind of sporting sense -- though I confess that there's was an entire chapter on Bradman and the body-line where I really had no idea what the hell James was talking about. Mostly though, James's enthusiasm carried me along the crest of a lyrical use of words in unfamiliar contexts and meanings, descriptions of overs and strokes and other barely understood marks of poetry and genius. Growing up with three brothers made this a familiar sensation, and I let the minimally understood words carry me along to more familiar territory. Historiography, politics, colonialism and its legacies, ethics, the relationships between a people and their popular heroes, the relationships between popular heroes and the spirit of the time and place.

These things are beautifully explored, and impossible to sum up. Strange growing up in Arizona playing soccer I was inculcated with many of the same values of fair play, and it's not a bad code to live by. Certainly conflicted, as James says, by where that code comes from and how it has been wielded.

This is partly why I appreciated his statement of the importance of remembering the past and understanding it in the present for both colonised and the colonisers. It is not about catharsis, but about understanding how we have arrived where we are so that we can shape where we are going. The demand to forget the past so often comes from those who benefit, even if unconsciously, from such forgetfulness.
There are the people who, having enjoyed the profits and privileges of racialism for most of a lifetime, now that racialism is under fire and in retreat, profess a lofty scorn for it and are terribly pained when so much as refer to it in any shape or form. Their means have changed, not their ends, which are the same as they always were, to exploit racialism for their own comfort and convenience. They are a dying race and they will not be missed...

There is a less obvious fraternity. They not only understand, but sympathize. When you delve into your own history they see in it a search for catharsis! You are getting the poison out of your system.
Here he quotes T.S. Eliot: 'This is the use of memory...liberation, From the future as well as the past.'
That is exactly what I do not think about memories. They do not liberate me in any sense except that once you have written down something your mind is ready to go further. I do not want to be liberated from them. I would consider liberation from them a grievous loss, irreparable. I am not recording tragedy. I do not wish to be liberated from that past and, above all, I do not wish to be liberated from its future. ... I speculated and planned and schemed for the future; among other plans, how to lay racialism flat and keep stamping on it whenever it raises its head, and at the same time not to lose a sense of proportion -- not at all easy. (59)
And this is a book about both the coloniser and the colonised, a look at what cricket has meant in England and how that has been exported to the West Indies to take on its own life and meaning. The connections between the two as they continue to meet. The playing out of emancipation through the politics of sport. A use of sport as a prism to understand national movements and hopes and anxieties. It feels more nuanced than a traditional economic base and ideological superstructure analysis, though it contains some of these elements. On the Victorian middle class, as it appropriated cricket to 'convert it into a national institution', James writes:
It was accumulating wealth...More than most newcomers it was raw. Unlike the French bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century, it had no need to create a new political and philosophical system to prepare itself for power. Its chief subjective quality was a moral unctuousness. This it wore like armour to justify its exploitation of common labour, and to protect itself from the loose and erratic lives of the aristocracy it was preparing to supplant... (161)
Seeing sport as culture:
The world-wide renaissance of organized games and sports as an integral part of modern civilization was on its way. Of this renaissance, the elevation of cricket and football to the place they soon held in English life was a part; historically speaking, the most important part...The only word I know for this is culture. The proof of its validity is its success, first of all at home and then almost as rapidly abroad, in the most diverse places and among peoples living lives which were poles removed from that whence it originally came. This signifies, as so often in any deeply national movement, that it contained elements of universality that went beyond the bounds of the originating nation. It is the only contribution of the English educational system of the nineteenth century to the general ideas of Western civilization (166).
It is, however, a universality this particular form of which came into being through certain economic changes. James describes that following the Factory Act of 1847, 'there had come into existence an enormous urban public, proletarian and clerical lower middle class. They had won for themselves one great victory, freedom on Saturday afternoon. They were 'waiting to be amused' (170).

W.G. Grace became my hero (though later conversation with people who know about these things tore him down again, forcing me to make a separation between personal life and public -- one that I am never ever comfortable with). I learned a new word as well:
Prolegomena is a tough word, but my purpose being what it is, it is the only one I can honestly use. It means the social, political, literary and other antecedents of some outstanding figure in the arts and sciences. Grasp the fact that a whole nation had prepared the way for him and you begin to see his stature as a national embodiment (170).
I think there is something important here about how we study history, how we understand people and movements:
But the passions and the forces which are embodied in great popular heroes -- and W.G. was one of the greatest of popular heroes--these passions and forces do not yield their secrets to the antiquated instruments which the historians still cling to. Wilton St. Hill and Learie Constantine were more than makers of runs and takers of wickets to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Who will write a biography of Sir Donald Bradman must be able to write a history of Australia in the same period. I have indicated what I think W.G. signified in the lives of the English people, not in what politicians did for them or poets wrote of them or what Carlyle and Ruskin preached to them, but in the lives that they themselves lived from day to day. We shall know more what men want and what they live by when we begin from what they do. They worshipped W.G. That is the fact. And I believe we have never given this fact the attention it deserves. Some day we shall. Of that I have no doubt. For the time being it is enough to say once more: he brought and made a secure place for pre-industrial England in the iron and steel of the Victorian Age (182).
All of this should shape how we work to change our future. Constantine, St Hill, Worrell become heroes as well. The struggle for Worrell as a Black captain clearly a most important one, though clearly a struggle that many on the more dogmatic left believed a waste of time.

I also quite loved the chapter on cricket as high art, the beautiful lines of the play and players themselves, the aesthetics. I chuckled at some of the homoerotic nature of classic descriptions of player form, style and beauty. But I would be the last to deny that this beauty is there.

I think the true skill and beauty of cricket is impossible to fully grasp for anyone who hasn't followed it for a long time, and better yet played and played well. But its meaning, its greater cultural meaning is something we should work to understand. ...more
5

Jun 30, 2019

This is the most fascinating of books on the game of cricket. It remains one of the best commentary on the value of sports as an embodiment of socio-historical process, a repository of collective aesthetic aspirations and a guide to the performative codes and ideals of a sport into forming self-identity of a group of people. Cricket for James remains the highest form of art, at par with theater, dance and music. In this book the personal story of how Cricket shaped one of the most important This is the most fascinating of books on the game of cricket. It remains one of the best commentary on the value of sports as an embodiment of socio-historical process, a repository of collective aesthetic aspirations and a guide to the performative codes and ideals of a sport into forming self-identity of a group of people. Cricket for James remains the highest form of art, at par with theater, dance and music. In this book the personal story of how Cricket shaped one of the most important political theorist, historian and cultural critic of the last century is combined with Marxist analysis of the game. And for that matter the real worth of sports in a labor which is not meant to alienate us from the product of the labor but rather the labor embodying it's own purpose and serving us immediately. It is theoretical in parts but it is engaging and highly mind-opening.

This book poses so many questions about the changing relation of the social organization with the choice of game and of the collective subjective aspirations to a sporting aesthetic that Cricket and sports have to be seen in a totally new light; far from the mindless pursuit of commodification and toward an understanding of a new form of self-identity and an aesthetic aspiration. ...more
4

Aug 27, 2019

CLR James meticulously traces the history and development of cricket from rural England to a metaphoric expression of the national soul. Cricket is established as more than a sport but as an art. James convincingly measures the political, economic and socio-cultural temperature of the West Indies on its march to independence through the interaction of the Caribbean man and woman with the artistic expressions on the field of play. Knowledge of the dialectic brings a deeper understanding to the CLR James meticulously traces the history and development of cricket from rural England to a metaphoric expression of the national soul. Cricket is established as more than a sport but as an art. James convincingly measures the political, economic and socio-cultural temperature of the West Indies on its march to independence through the interaction of the Caribbean man and woman with the artistic expressions on the field of play. Knowledge of the dialectic brings a deeper understanding to the evolution of matters political, as much as knowledge of cricket brings pleasure to the descriptive language of the duels between bat and ball, so eloquently described.

What do they know of cricket who only cricket know? Perhaps that cricket remains a thermometre for measuring the health the West Indian collective. ...more
4

Jun 18, 2012

There are many claims made for this book, all advanced by supporters and admirers over the years. The book, modestly, makes no claims, save that of clarifying some of the issues relating to Learie Constantine’s stay in Lancashire during the Thirties.

Apart from fifteen years spent in the USA, cricket suffused C.L.R. James’ life. As a boy, he could see the local cricket ground from a window in the family house, and spent many hours watching the local team play. An intelligent child, he won one of There are many claims made for this book, all advanced by supporters and admirers over the years. The book, modestly, makes no claims, save that of clarifying some of the issues relating to Learie Constantine’s stay in Lancashire during the Thirties.

Apart from fifteen years spent in the USA, cricket suffused C.L.R. James’ life. As a boy, he could see the local cricket ground from a window in the family house, and spent many hours watching the local team play. An intelligent child, he won one of the few scholarships available to black Trinidad children and attended what was, to all intents and purposes, an English public school transplanted to the West Indies. There, he pursued cricket, and was accepted as a good player and valuable member of the team.

He was good enough that, on leaving school, he attracted the interest of two different clubs: in the colonial-era Trinidad, race and colour were the factors determining for which team you played.

Pause here to take stock: C.L.R. James was playing club cricket in Trinidad in the 1920’s. He played with George John, Wilton St. Hill and Learie It would be like turning up to play for the Blackpool team and finding Andrew Flintoff on the team sheet. And because they were cricket-mad, they would play “scratch” games amongst themselves when an organised game was not available.

But all the time that the stories of cricket and cricketers are being told, there is another theme running through this narrative: colonialism. James grew up in the early twentieth century, when the West Indies islands were British Colonies. White Men ruled, sending Oxbridge graduates over on “missionary” duty, to teach, lead business and to rule over the natives. The population was becoming politicised, starting to resent rule from London and itching for self-government.
James – eventually – became a significant force in the politics of cricket and of Trinidad. As an aspiring young writer, he accompanied Learie Constantine to England in the ‘Thirties, helping him with his autobiography. Constantine was playing as a professional in the Lancashire Leagues. The atmosphere was very different to what they had known in Trinidad, but the cricket was competitive and Constantine earned a great deal of money. But James focuses on what made Constantine’s trip a success in other ways: broadening the horizons of West Indian cricketers in general; breaking down cultural barriers (the Constantine family became welcomed and accepted into Lancashire life); and spreading the message in England that home rule for the West Indies was just and fair and needed to happen.

James’ political inclinations appear here: he embraced solialism at first, then Marxism and Trotskyism. During his time in the USA, he met with Trotsky and other leading international Communists.

When James returned to Trinidad in the Fifties, he walked into the middle of a storm. Now independent, it seemed that the cricket authorities were still trying to apply rule from abroad. The West Indies Test Team were captained by a White Man, despite the regional Governments being 100% local. As James notes, it was as if the message to England was “look how well the black man plays with a white man in charge.”

The announcement of a White Captain over local favourite Frank Worrell was a turning point. James led a campaign for Worrell to be appointed captain, but not once did he bring the issue of Race into the discussion. At all times, his stance was that Worrell would be the better captain, was the better cricketer, and held the respect of the West Indies, and their opponents Australia.

Worrell’s appointment (and achievements) are a fitting climax to the book, ending a story of sixty years of devotion to cricket.

Oddly, within a book which celebrates so much of West Indian life and cricket, James chooses two sections in the middle to look at cricket from a wider angle. He discusses the reasons for the games rapid growth in popularity during the mid-Victorian era, including a detailed analysis of W.G. Grace’s life and career, and his role in establishing the game in the English consciousness. The second section compares cricket and art, attempting to make a case (perhaps with some justification) that the game transcends mere play and transports the spectator to another realm – the same function performed by a great painting or a Handel oratorio.

This linking of cricket with the wider world – looking at the persons and personalities, how people react to cricket and the politics of the game – all feed in to the most widely quoted line of the book. At a Test Match at the Queens Park Oval, the game was halted after the crowd, almost to a man, threw beer bottles onto the pitch in response to a poor decision. Feelings, running high over a number of issues and stoked by the heat of the day and by beer, overflowed as never before and resulted in a riot. James wrote an open letter to the authorities, suggesting that an enquiry be held and that the board be made up of people brought from outside the Club Committee. Other factors needed to be taken into account – the crowd, facilities, refreshments – and as James notes, “What do they know of cricket, they who only cricket know?”

Beyond A Boundary is, therefore, an apt title for the book.

Overall, what shines through the book is James’ love of cricket and cricketers. It is a passion, a love, a devotion which never left him, even after spending so many cricketless years in the States. The book is warm, wise and optimistic, even when examining some of the worst periods in cricket (and colonial) history. Anyone with even a passing interest in cricket, the West Indies or the history of British Colonial rule should seek out a copy of this book and enjoy it.
...more
2

Jul 19, 2018

I'm sure the author is brilliant, and the book is lovely. But the focus on cricket, which went into deep detail over-and-over, introducing dozens of cricket players who would be important for a page or two and then forgotten thereafter, was for me a gruelling grind. I got about a third of the way through and - though intrigued by the way the juxtaposition of the different professional teams related to social systems were forming - simply had no interest in grinding through more and more stories I'm sure the author is brilliant, and the book is lovely. But the focus on cricket, which went into deep detail over-and-over, introducing dozens of cricket players who would be important for a page or two and then forgotten thereafter, was for me a gruelling grind. I got about a third of the way through and - though intrigued by the way the juxtaposition of the different professional teams related to social systems were forming - simply had no interest in grinding through more and more stories of cricket stars at play. I'm sure the loss is mine, but it felt wonderful to leave this book behind. ...more
3

Jan 09, 2019

A good premise that unfortunately falls prey to its author's innumerable streams of consciousness. It is no doubt an interesting look into the state of Caribbean cricket and race politics prior to the golden days of the West Indies. CLR James' role in the campaign for the appointment of West Indies' first black captain is incontrovertible, and this text is testament to his devotion to his beliefs and to the sport, but his philosophical ramblings made this book more dense and disjointed than it A good premise that unfortunately falls prey to its author's innumerable streams of consciousness. It is no doubt an interesting look into the state of Caribbean cricket and race politics prior to the golden days of the West Indies. CLR James' role in the campaign for the appointment of West Indies' first black captain is incontrovertible, and this text is testament to his devotion to his beliefs and to the sport, but his philosophical ramblings made this book more dense and disjointed than it should have been. ...more
3

Sep 09, 2018

The fact it took me nearly five years to finish reading this book says something! I felt obliged to complete it because, for so many, it is often referred to as a classic cricket book. I struggled with the writing. Thought provoking from time to time and interesting off and on about Trinidad, at least for me it wasn’t the great capturing of the magnificence of cricket that tributes had led me to believe.
5

Jan 06, 2020

Beyond a Boundary manages so gracefully to be and do so many things. One example: two thirds of the way through it, James - incidentally and with the effortless panache of the heroic Trinidadian fast-bowlers - provides probably the best concise Marxian history of Victorian literature you'll ever see. Just like that, in a chapter about W.G. Grace, at a moment when you weren't expecting it. The whole book is kind of like that.
4

Jul 15, 2019

I can't stop wishing I had read this in high school. It's a "sports book" in the same way that Moby Dick is about a whale; James writes about cricket and literature and politics as if they are everything and inseparable, but even if you don't share his passions or his politics, you come away desiring what he manages to capture more vividly than almost any author I can remember: a life well lived.
5

Feb 19, 2019

Frankly a lot of this book was way over my head--I know next to nothing about cricket and only slightly more about history and politics in England and the West Indies--but this book was so beautifully written, and the chapter called "What Is Art?" was so brilliant that I am giving it five stars. Maybe someday I'll know more about cricket and revisit this book.
5

Feb 19, 2017

This is a wonderful book stylistically, philosophically and socially. C.L.R. James seems to have a way of appreciating people, sport, art, history, which is critical but in a positive and productive way. I think this is the best book I have read in years and thoroughly recommend it.

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