‘My Turn’ by Johan Cruyff

Contrary to popular opinion, Johan Cruyff had two signature moves. His autobiography, written as he was dying from cancer and published in October 2016 by Macmillan, spends two sentences on one and 200 pages on the other.

In a 1974 World Cup group stage match, Cruyff controls a long ball out on the Dutch left wing – badly, which is ironic given how many times in the book he emphasises the importance of the first touch – and is faced up by Swedish defender Jan Olsson. With his back to goal and Olsson clinging to him closer than a horny puppy, Cruyff feints to play the ball backwards, infield, with his right foot. Rather than pass Cruyff continued the fluid movement by dragging the ball inside his own standing foot and pivoting 180 degrees towards goal. Olsson, whom Wikipedia describes as ‘the first victim of the Cruyff turn’, bought the dummy so completely and comprehensively that he did not realise that Cruyff had gone in the opposite direction until the second week of April, 1975.

Continue reading →

The little death of Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami, often lauded as the world’s greatest living novelist, is dead.

He died around 7:30pm on the evening of Sunday 23rd October 2011, just as I read the opening line to his latest novel, “1Q84”. His death came after a protracted period of anticipation on my part, stretching back to when I discovered the first two parts of 1Q84 were to be published in the UK as a single volume.

Murakami’s first death came around three years ago when I discovered his novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles”. He died in the back of Waterstones in Sheffield, next to the table of ghost-written sports autobiographies. Since then Murakami has died regularly and I have enjoyed each little death more and more.

I will accept some blame for Murakami’s death. In reading those first lines of 1Q84, I delivered the killing stroke. But it was a French academic, writing three years before I was even born, who drew the sword for me. He helped me kill Murakami, Pablo Neruda, Edgar Allen Poe, Paulo Coelho and any number of my favourite authors, and his name was Roland Barthes.

Continue reading →

“Sugar Paper Theories” & the Reykjavik Confessions

On the evening of November 19, 1974, Geirfinnur Einarsson was at home with his wife and two young children in the town of Keflavik, just over 30 miles from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. When the phone rang, his ten year old son answered it. A male voice asked for Geirfinnur. “I came”, his wife heard him say. A pause. “Well, then I will come.”

On finishing the call, Geirfinnur took his car keys and left the house without saying anything, something his wife would later say was quite normal for him. He drove down to the Harbour Shop in Keflavik where he bought cigarettes. The shop assistant, whose name was Gudlaug and who knew Geirfinnur well, said that he seemed to be in a hurry and did not stop to chat, as he usually did. Gudlaug was the last person to see Geirfinnur Einarsson alive.

Continue reading →

Jon Ronson at The Showroom, Sheffield: a half-arsed review

I would argue that my generation has probably seen more change than any other.

The change is technology-driven and affects all spheres of our lives, from the micro to the macro. Synthesisers and computers have changed music forever, for example. I can perform music and DJ in a club using a tablet only a few inches long; meanwhile pop music will never sound the same. I can carry the world’s collective wisdom in ebook format on the same tablet and reference it anywhere, so I’ll never again go back into a library. I’ll never spend more than a few pounds without price-checking and reading reviews online, won’t visit somewhere without stepping through it virtually… I don’t even have phone numbers for half of my friends and if I did I probably wouldn’t use them because I use social media to keep in touch (also I don’t have many friends).

Social media has facilitated a great change in our thinking and behaviour. Interactions that I couldn’t have conceived of whilst I sat tapping in ZX Spectrum games out of a magazine are now commonplace, and frankly very little seems futuristic.

But, argues Jon Ronson in his new book, social media – twitter, primarily, due to the real-time nature of the interactions – has also facilitated a resurgence in a very old-fashioned behaviour: public shaming.

Continue reading →

Haruki Murakami, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage” – review

It was about halfway through reading Murakami’s thirteenth novel that I realised quite why I love his books so much.

I’m a Feedly addict. I use it like twitter. I’m probably following about 400 different sources, from ‘Weird News from Huffington Post’ with its stories about images of Jesus appearing inside melted USB plugs, to the official Fabian society blog and its complaints about the superficiality of the ‘One Nation’ message. Severe weather and natural disasters, photography, archaeology, politics, football tactics, psychology – my Feedly feed is a real morass of seemingly unconnected stuff. I dip in and out several times a day, just scrolling through each story précis until I see something worth reading.

That’s what a Murakami novel feels like.

Continue reading →