On Snooker: The Game And The Characters Who Play It
Mordecai Richler

Knopf Canada

It pains me to say it, because the man was one of my heroes, but Mordecai Richler’s last book is his worst.

Richler was incapable of being completely unentertaining, and in this book he’s at his best extemporizing on some of his favourite bugbears. During a train ride to a British snooker tournament, for example, he happens to be reading a copy of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and takes strong exception to some anti-Semitic passages. Lively reading, sure, but very fleeting and absolutely unrelated to snooker. So is an anecdote about an Eastern Townships pal of the author that is eerily similar to a scene from Solomon Gursky Was Here. As for the snooker-specific chapters, their interest depends largely on how you feel about snooker, so proceed accordingly.

Matters aren’t helped by some strange editorial decisions. A chapter that lists other writers who’ve written about sports, seemingly intended to defend this book’s modus operandi, comes not at the beginning but, bafflingly, at the end. And the larger question of whether snooker should even be considered a sport – this is a game for which some of its stars prepare by drinking large quantities of lager – is barely touched upon.

On the other hand, if you’ve been looking for a book that will tell you about Peter Middleton’s turbulent stint as chief executive of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, your search is over. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read Solomon Gursky again. mRb