Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Buy it at

The 150-word Review: Hans van den Broek is listless and lonely in post-9/11 New York. His wife has left him for the safe familiarity of London with their young son. On a shabby cricket pitch in Staten Island, Hans rediscovers a sport he once loved, and serendipitously befriends a fellow enthusiast, Chuck Ramkissoon, an enigmatic and infectiously optimistic Trinidadian, who introduces Hans to New York’s history and its vibrant immigrant neighborhoods.

Joseph O’Neill’s deeply considered prose has a genteel quality, full of nuance and restraint, that evokes the spirit and rhythm of cricket, which serves as a metaphor for Hans’ estrangement from his family. Occasionally, the narrative bogs down with Hans’ melancholic recollections or Chuck’s wistful pontification. “Netherland” truly shines during the detailed, but accessible, descriptions of cricket and the wonderfully atmospheric scenes of New York. O’Neill’s triumph lies in his ability to capture the city amidst the first days of its recovery.

You will like this book if you like: Gatsby-esque dreamers; bowlers, batsmen, and wickets; a vision of New York that isn’t a cliché (unlike Sex in the City); a modern Alexis de Tocqueville; idiosyncratic hotel residents; and West Indian bon vivants.

This book will go great with: Callaloo

Set the Mood With: Englishman in New York by Sting (even though Hans is actually Dutch)

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, a “sticky wicket” originally referred to a wet cricket pitch, which causes a bowled ball to dangerously spin or bounce unpredictably, making it “difficult situation” for a batsman.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine


Literary Heat: Larry Wroblewski

I’ve just finished reading, “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill and a review should be forthcoming. I’m still digesting it, so to speak. I thought it was very well written, but there were parts that I didn’t enjoy and I can’t quite articulate why. This is funny because “Netherland” has been described as “Gatsby-esque” and I’ve always felt the same way about “The Great Gatsby.”

Next up in the queue is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” the debut novel by David Wroblewski. This has been the year of debut novels, hasn’t it? Junot Díaz (kind of a debut), Joshua Ferris, Charles Bock, and now David Wroblewski. Another interesting coincidence: Díaz, Bock, and Wroblewski all supposedly took 11 years to complete their first novel. So, if I start tomorrow, keep a eye out for my stunning debut in 2019 or so.

“The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” is about a family of dog breeders and a mute teenage boy who communicates with people (and dogs) through an intuitive form of sign and body language. And it’s heavily influenced by Hamlet! Thus far, the critical reception for the novel has been positive. is aggressively supporting the book and it received a glowing recommendation from Stephen King.

Here is a brief interview with David Wroblewski in the Vulture blog on New York Magazine’s website. Vulture is fast becoming one of my favorite “culture” blogs and a daily read.

The book should arrive in the next day or so. I’m considering resurrecting the Your Designated Reader series for this one.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine