Monday, February 21, 2011

C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary: Chapter 1, "The Window"

Childhood. Books on top of the wardrobe and watching cricket through the bedroom window. Landmark experiences: watching the dissolute Matthew Bondman bat and seeing Arthur Jones' cut shot caught at deep point. Puritan spirit of the family sustained by a fear of sinking into impoverished degradation. Family influences. Both grandfathers self-made immigrants from other islands. Convent raised mother, who absorbed puritanism and an indiscriminate love of reading novels. Schoolteacher father, who knew enough of the world to know what was worth reading. Cricket articles from magazines. Vanity Fair (from the age of eight). Bible stories and the the Bible.

James is at his best sketching pen portraits of members of the extended family who peopled his childhood, like Cousin Cudjoe, his aunt Judith, and his maternal grandfather Josh Rudder. James's vivid short profiles not only bring these personalities to life but also illustrate the larger struggles of black West Indians against racism and poverty.

19: "When I did spend time with my parents my father told me about cricket and his own prowess. But now I was older and my interest became tinged with skepticism, chiefly because my mother often interrupted to say that whenever she went to see him play he was always caught in the long field for very little."

28: "Me and my clippings and magazines on W.G. Grace, Victor Trumper and Ranjitsinhji, and my Vanity Fair and my puritanical view of the world. I look back at the little eccentric and would like to have listened to him, nod affirmatively and pat him on the shoulder. A British intellectual long before I was ten, already an alien in my own environment among my own people, even my own family. Somehow from around me I had selected and fastened on to the things that made a whole. As will soon appear, to that little boy I owe a debt of gratitude."

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