Saturday, 4 September 2010

Krasznahorkai posted, Bulgaria beaten

If it's posted I must have finished, mustn't I? Everything takes longer than you think, and no sooner had I got to the end than I thought I'd better go back to the beginning again because, as I remembered it, there hadn't been quite the assurance there as at the end.

So I returned and went through the first part of the book again until it had the right look in its eye. I could, I suppose, have gone right through again, and then repeated the process, ad infinitum, but brilliant Barbara at New Directions will put me right if there are still problems or loss of power.

The redrafting is done without the book most of the time, because it is no longer about accuracy but about dynamics. If you haven't got the basic accuracy there by that stage you might as well give up. Either you've got it or you haven't by then. What you are now trying to do is to write the book that people are going to read. You hack and gather, splice and re-splice, sharpen and blunt, warm up or cool down to what you believe is the essential modus operandi of the original text as it now cruises or bustles into English. I do think Michael Hofmann works the same way.


It didn't stop me watching the football last night. Interesting performance, one that looked good by the end though it didn't look that good as it went through all its various patches. There is always a palpable anxiety about the national team - it's as if everyone - especially the crowd - wanted to go the full jingoistic mile but didn't dare to. They shouldn't worry - jingoism is universal in sport, as is tribalism. That is what sport is for.

So the team rips away at the beginning much as usual, scores a goal, then fears it might be pegged back and gets the tremors. It daren't do anything difficult or ambitious for fear of disaster, so goes into a cataleptic trance. Then something wakes it. In this case the opponents almost score and a second goal appears on the counter-attack. Sigh of relief. Good, now let's play a bit. And they do, because they can. Are they that good? Of course they are. But this is the England team. Death by fear and timidity. Under no account look as though you are enjoying yourself - people are likely to take that for frivolity.

Individually, Hart looks and feels like the first assuring goalkeeper for a decade or more. About time. Vital for a team to trust the keeper. Johnson was erratic as usual, but capable of spectacular things. On the other hand it's a new central defensive partnership inside him, so he can't afford to make any mistakes. And he does. Cole has a good game and improves as he goes along. Classy player prone to the occasional mistake, like Johnson, but fewer. Jagielka looked perfectly good; poor Dawson always seems a little uncertain to me and he got injured too. Cahill looked OK in his place and I think he might get in in front of Dawson. Gerrard had a good game, drifting about and holding things together, Milner reminds me a little of a stronger Colin Bell, full of running, power and intelligence. Walcott was stunning sometimes and hopeless at others. Gareth Barry looks slow to me, not as good as he was a few years ago. He might leave the stage in the next year or two. Adam Johnson looks very promising. They should persevere with him as well as with Walcott. There isn't anyone better anywhere for now. Defoe took his goals remarkably well, was intelligent and nippy, making lovely runs. Then there's Rooney.

Rooney is the most psychologically transparent player I have ever seen. I try to watch him off the ball. His moods are patent. When he's involved he is everywhere, and quite magnificent. Then he loses it for a while, has doubts and becomes much less mobile. He practically walks. You can see the fluctuations not only on his face but in his entire body language. Attitude is vital to him. I like him where he played yesterday, just behind the smaller, faster striker, coming on the passes and making them, rather than waiting for them. He made all four goals. I wouldn't worry about him scoring too many. I don't think Zidane scored all the time and Rooney has the potential to become a Zidane or Ronaldiho type of player, more exuberant than Zidane, more powerfully built than Ronaldinho. But that is potential, not achievement.

Very few teams are ever brilliant throughout a whole match - Spain certainly weren't. They have spectacular ten or fifteen minute spells, the rest of the time they graft and depend on one truly cultured playmaker and one tricky front player. England potentially have the material for that, with a bit of luck and patience (from everyone). 4-0 flattered them, 3-1 would not have.

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