chapter  10
The Literariness of Sport: Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer and C. L. R. James’ Beyond a Boundary In Search of a Genre
Pages 11

It is difficult, upon reflection, to decide. Difficult, that is, because the project these writers undertake is to produce-to write, it would be more appropriate to say, to write into being-a genre that is largely presumed to be populist and therefore anti-canonical. Is this turn, taken by C. L. R. James in his 1963 cricket memoir Beyond a Boundary and Roger Kahn in his 1972 non-fiction baseball book The Boys of Summer, a telling irony? Does it constitute a paradox, or-a proposition we must certainly entertain-is it entirely of a piece with the genre they are writing-writing toward? Is there an innate commensurability between James’ and Kahn’s immersion in canonical literature and their attempt to write a “poem,” as Kahn (2006, 205) might have it, of the popular? Does the “memory” (Kahn 2006, 205) of the popular begin, reside already before itself, in an-other poem? Or, as James (1993, 32) puts it, is the poetry already inextricably interwoven into and through the Greek trilogy of “poetry, gymnastics and music”? Is that the gift the Greeks made us but we have been too slow to take it up, to recognize what exactly it is that the games meant? And, why should it be surprising that a genre that does not yet have a canon should turn, in writing its genre, to canons that are familiar, trusted, and to hand? A canon, that is, in which James and Kahn do not only think, but which, it is possible to suggest, enable them to think about the genre of writing sport as a genre before they even take up the work of producing a genre.