Gary Dexter

Alternative reading | 25 September 2010

On Snooker (2001) by Mordecai Richler

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On Snooker

Mordecai Richler

The cover of On Snooker shows the Queen Mother sizing up a shot, making a passable bridge but rather failing to get behind the cue. The book is by Mordecai Richler, the great Canadian novelist and essayist, author of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Barney’s Version, who died in 2001. On Snooker takes in all the major figures of the late-20th-century game, and is unafraid to bring out its juicier side, particularly the depredations of its bad boys: Alex Higgins trashing hotel rooms, urinating in plant-pots, whaling his cue at the spectators, ending up broke, drinking from left-over beer glasses; Ronnie O’Sullivan and his dad, Ronnie O’Sullivan Sr., who ran a dirty books empire (‘Ron’s the name, porn’s the game’) and was put away for stabbing a chauffeur; and Steve Davis, who because of his prostate complaint Richler labels ‘the sly old pisser’. The book is an unashamed paean to the green baize, and states proudly its ambition to follow in the footsteps of ‘Pushkin, Jane Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Conrad and Dostoevsky’ — who, of course, all managed to write a description of a billiards game.