Books to read at the cricket – A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

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Ged writes:

This was a first for me in the matter of reading a novel while watching county cricket. In the past, at cricket, I have always gone for:

  • factual books (usually on economics, psychology, ethics or some mixture of those things)
  • plays
  • journal articles
  • and/or my general weekly reading (e.g. The Economist and/or The Week)

A Confederacy of Dunces is a great book. Most of it works fine as cricket reading, although some of the longer ramblings of the lead character, Ignatius J Reilly, are not ideally suited to the tempo of reading while watching cricket.

Walter Percy’s introduction to the book describes Ignatius as, “slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote…”. I suggest that the cricket lover imagines him as their least-favourite rotund cricketer. In my case, the cricketer in question was Fatty Pringle.

While watching Sam Robson nurdle the ball effortlessly off his legs and Nick Gubbins drive majestically through extra cover, I imagined “Ignatius” trying instead to hoik the ball to cow corner while emitting bovine styles of methane and noise.

But I digress. In summary, A Confederacy of Dunces is:

  • a cracking good read
  • almost certainly better read over a few days, not in chunks over a few months
  • entirely unconnected with cricket, except in your own imaginings
  • moderately suitable as cricket match reading. On balance, yes, go for it

Have you tried to read summat while at a cricket match? Let us know how it went at


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  1. Just before I write an angry letter to a national broadsheet, this only applies to county cricket? There is a law against this sort of thing at sold-out international games, I presume?

    1. International cricket is for drinking. Please send alcohol reviews for international games.

      1. I went to a test match once. Having decided not to drink till after lunch, I had my first pint at 10:45 am. It was bitter. After that I had another pint of bitter, and another.

        Then I had lunch. Lunch is a bad time to go to the bar, because every man and his dog are at the bar. That’s eighteen thousand men and one dog, all at the bar. So instead I had some water. No, not water, that other stuff – gin and tonic.

        The afternoon session allowed access to the bar again. However, the gin and tonic had somewhat spoiled the taste of bitter. It had begun to taste bitter, so to speak, so I swapped to cider till tea.

        Tea, while again closing off the bar access (bloody dog), opened up the possibility of wine. Wine is too dangerous to drink except when the end is in sight. You start drinking wine any earlier than 3:40 and you are gone. But once that clock ticks over to twenty minutes to four, you can safely hit the Merlot. Wine is a great choice for international cricket, because you can get it from New Zealand, South Africa, and of course, France. Red wine is best, because white wine goes warm in your bag. And ever since English literature lessons at school, I’ve never liked cider with rosé.

        The evening session is an odd sort of affair. Yes there is cricket, but it is a vague sort of cricket, happening and not happening at the same time. It is also the time when you seem to end up with several drinks all at the same time. I don’t know how this happens. You put some of them on the floor and hope they go away, but they don’t.

        At stumps, you leave four half-glasses of beer / wine / cider on the floor and walk away.

  2. I read it years ago, and found it a bit of a struggle. Then again, I wasn’t watching cricket at the time. Perhaps that was the issue.

    1. If you don’t have time for book reading, Sam, something is seriously amiss. You need to jettison something – kids?

      1. I read kids’ books. Does that count?

        Just last night Henry thought Thomas and Gordon had chicken pox. He was wrong. Then my son woke up at 3am and didn’t go back to sleep. So, as you can imagine, today is a barrel of laughs.

      2. My two-year-old daughter loves books. A double-edged sword – I’m pleased but reading The Gingerbread Man for the third time in a day can cause my pleasure to pall.

    2. Not Colin the Big Man, that’s who, Sam, now he has the added pressure of playing for the Mighty Birmingham U-Bears in ‘wee man cricket’ this season.

      Let’s hope that, unlike a previous occasion when he arrived in this land to play as the overseas star at a regional side, he rocks up with more than just his golf clubs.

  3. Joe, your tale of Gingerbread Man excess has plucked my heart strings and triggered a wave of nostalgia to hear that story read again.

    You have encouraged me to start uploading my oldest tapes (long since digitised but not uploaded), starting with my own dad’s rendition of The Gingerbread Man with me, more than 50 years ago.

    If you get bored of reading it yourself, see if this recording works on your little one. I used to listen to it more often than I can now imagine:

    Thanks for triggering.

    1. Actually, I rather like reading The Gingerbread Man – it has a rousing refrain and, unlike many anodyne kids’ stories, he comes to a sticky end. I’ll have a listen to that later tonight.

      Did your Dad record much else? The phrases “Stop climbing on the bookcase” and “I’ve told you, don’t push your brother over” would come in particularly useful for when I’m otherwise occupied in the kitchen or upstairs.

  4. I have reflected overnight on the story, nay parable, of the Gingerbread Man, wondering whether the main characters in that book might also be reimagined as cricket folk.

    Of course they can.

    The little old woman and the little old man are the county members to whom the Gingerbread Man, at least initially, owes his existence.

    The gentle bovine, Angus, needs no further introduction. Needless to say, the Gingerbread Man is faster than Angus; indeed faster than he ever was.

    The Gingerbread Man meets his comeuppance at the hands of the wily old (Leicestershire) fox, James Whitaker.

    Ergo, you can imagine the Gingerbread Man to be your favourite “chewed up and spat out” quick. Perhaps Steve Finn. Perhaps Jake Ball. Tymal Mills, even.

    Less finality to the ending in the cricketing version, thank goodness.

  5. From a distance the sausage-wielding man on the cover appears to have taken guard and is awaiting a delivery.

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