People prefer absolutes in life, of course. Binary decisions and outcomes. But life is often more complex than this and becoming ever more so.
Who crossed the finishing line first? This is fine when measuring the fastest sprinter on earth but less satisfactory when the finishing line happens to be in an election as we witnessed recently in America.
Sports that don’t need judging are always on more solid ground. Football (soccer) is one such sport but only considering a team’s outcome and not how individual players have fared. Which explains the eulogies and arguments that accompanied the premature death of the magnificent Diego Maradona.
The best football player to have ever played the game, or not?
A question that is impossible to answer because so many factors need to be accounted for and too many of these are not absolutes.
Maradona or Pele is usually the first round. Their extraordinary prowess and accomplishments measured and compared before the political, nationalist and racial implications are then factored in. No answer is right or wrong. All subjective and impossible to agree on.
What about Messi or Ronaldo? It depends on our experiences. How old we are and whether they played in our era. Where we are from…
Usain Bolt is indisputably the best sprinter to have ever lived because he has the fastest time. No one would argue with this although John McEnroe recently was in trouble for omitting Serena Williams from his list of Borg, Federer and Nadal as his potential best tennis player of all time. An example of how the world is becoming more complex?
But much more complex than sport are the arts.
The arts are notoriously prone to politicking, patronage and favour and will always be contentious. Scroll through the Academy Awards for an array of anomalies and decisions where political pressures of the day are borne out.
So too with literature. Last week on the radio I heard a very famous author being interviewed. His introduction was arresting, or at least it made me stop and listen. Countless books published. Translated in to over 40 languages and with over 130 million copies sold.
Like everyone else listening, I felt compelled to do the maths on his income – or because he is American, the math.
By any reckoning, this guy is a writing titan and fleetingly, I wondered how it must feel…
I had an idea that we have one of his novels in the house and I went to seek it out. With so many millions sold, presumably most homes have at least one of his books.
Indeed, I found the novel and quickly got started but almost as quickly, I got finished. I lasted only a couple of chapters. Far too painful to read on. Boys own guff. Risible stuff, in my opinion but on this, I must be wrong?
Unless 130 million people have been somehow hoodwinked in to buying his books just once and then never again. Which is nonsense of course. He must have legions of fans who love his books. And they are not wrong for doing so.
But my point is this…
That the ‘best’ and the ‘most successful’ are not always so. There are thriller writers right now toiling at their computers and writing books far superior to this guy writing and yet monstrous sales will elude them.
This Christmas, hundreds (thousands even) of non-fiction comedic books will be published and mine included. I would never claim that my book (Takes on Life) is the ‘best’ or the ‘funniest’, but I do contest that it will be more readable and more entertaining than many of the books that feature on the bestseller lists.
And this is not hard lines. It is just life.
It is often said that life is not fair. But it is not supposed to be. And the quicker we realise this, the happier we are.
I write this blog because last night I watched a film and the notion of fairness really caught up with me.
1917, Dunkirk and ’71 are three films in a similar vein.
Set in wartime. Taught dramas. Historical interpretations of famous events. All are award winning films. But only one I found completely gripping and entertaining.
Two directed by household names, with star studded casts and enormous budgets and studio support.
And one by a debutante director with almost an unknown cast and I imagine a budget stretching at the sinews – and yet it this film that had me rapt.
Dunkirk and 1917 both featured large at the Oscars, which is the ultimate gauge of a movie’s success.
I expect that most of my readers today have heard of these two films and that many of you will have seen them also.
And that too few of you have seen ’71.
This is a shame and I urge you to seek it out. You can thank me later.
And just for some context, to the imponderable question posed above, I am Maradona.
The greatest football player of all time but likely to be eclipsed by his countryman, Lionel Messi.
In my humble opinion, obviously.
Takes on Life was published last week. Thank you to all the blog readers who have taken a punt and purchased a copy. Paperbacks are available at online retailers. Hardbacks are available through this site and these can be signed and dedicated as gifts if you wish.
Not the best book that will be published ahead of Christmas – but way better than some of the shite that will be!