Friday, May 29, 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: May 2015

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Among the Thugs 
Author: Bill Buford
via Wikipedia
In the 1980s, soccer's popularity in the United States was growing by leaps and bounds. With the simultaneous rise of youth soccer and cable television, more Americans than ever were becoming aware of a sport with which much of the rest of humanity was already dangerously obsessed.  Exposure to the world's game - known by most as football - brought knowledge of its darker side: hooligans, especially English hooligans.  Football-related violence in England was, we were told, epidemic and uncontrollable.  No American journalist - indeed, perhaps no journalist of any nationality - went to greater lengths to learn about English hooligans than Bill Buford.

Buford spent most of the decade embedding himself in hooligan culture, particularly the Manchester United "firm" known as the Inter-City Jibbers.  Among the Thugs was the end result, a highly disturbing chronicle of the excesses of an unchecked mob.  Buford endured riots and police beatings in his quest to understand the mentality behind the phenomenon.  As upsetting as the gory details frequently are, the book's ultimate power lies in Buford's startling conclusions about the group psychology of the crowd.  In essence, the rioting mob is not the other.  It is us.

This was my second Buford book.  Heat, his exploration of the culinary world, is far less gruesome.  In both cases, his commitment to the project is uncompromising. 

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post June's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is June 26th.

18 comments:

  1. Eep! I remember those days! It still gives me chills to see those images in my memory. People died in those soccer mobs... I'll honestly admit I never got into soccer because I was afraid to watch the games on TV all those years ago. And I used to watch golf, tennis, hockey, bball, baseball, football, you name it. (My father groomed me to be a living room Jeopardy champ, LOL)

    Bill Buford sounds a bit like a predecessor to Morgan Spurlock. Thoughts?
    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you're right about the Morgan Spurlock connection. Hunter S. Thompson is another comparison I've seen.

      Your dad sounds like fun!

      Delete
  2. Okay, that sounds interesting. Probably not interesting enough that I will go get it, but it's something I would certainly pick up if it was lying around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's well worth a read and one need not be a sports fan.

      Delete
  3. Such an interesting book but what happened to his life after coming out of the pack.
    Much like the thugs of Baltimore, Fergerson and Isis you can see the strength numbers give. Then the all or nothing violence for violence, pack mentality.
    Compelling read but not sure I would pick it up.
    I like my violence one beheading at a time, thank you Henry VIII.

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Buford has, in fact, been cited by folks who study terrorism as a social phenomenon.

      In answer to your question, as far as I can tell from his later book, he went back to a more or less normal life.

      Delete
  4. That sounds very good. I've seen headlines in the news recently about corruption in the world of football/soccer.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, not a great week for soccer in the press. I swear I didn't plan my post to coincide but it certainly is a funny coincidence. To me, the funniest thing about the coverage is that while some have questioned the timing and motivation of the prosecutors, no one is the least bit surprised by the charges. Corruption at the highest levels of Fifa has been the worst kept secret in sports for a long time.

      Delete
  5. I'm very interested in this phenomenon, as I lived in England for a while. The violence during team sports always floored me. I mean....come on! It's just a game, guys!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's part of what's interesting. The hooligans identity themselves as "supporters" but the matches are just the staging ground. The violence itself is the real draw.

      Delete
  6. I'm with Megan. I just don't get the violence at soccer matches. I guess from your answer to her is that it was more of an excuse for the hooligans to behave badly. As messed up as American professional sports can be, at least they don't end in riots. It sounds like a very interesting book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, but sometimes they do! Police in cities around the country are on standby when the local team is in a championship game. Win or lose, riots are possible.

      Delete
  7. That does sound like an interesting if unsettling read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It definitely leaves a lasting impression.

      Delete
  8. Yikes - that book would be unpleasant for me to read, I think. He sure is dedicated to his craft, this Buford guy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are definitely some uncomfortable moments but actually not as many as I expected. I am squirming more over my current read.

      Delete
  9. Yikes, what a frightening prospect to go undercover into that. I'll have to take a look a Heat, that sounds intriguing.
    Thugs! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To clarify, he wasn't undercover. The hooligans all knew he was a journalist. Gaining their reluctant trust is an important part of the story.

      Yes, you should read Heat. I think you'd enjoy it.

      Delete