I loved Kick and Run. Full disclosure: it could have been my story, if I was as smart and funny as Jonathan Wilson.
He describes the progression of his life through the prism of the soccer ball, that heavy leather orb that made any British youngster jump for joy at scoring the winning goal for England on the way to school.Jonathan and I briefly lived opposite each other in Helena Road, NW10, so I can vouch for the cultural authenticity of his account of life in that tiny Jewish enclave. But he makes the story his own by sharp insights into his sometimes troubled youth as a Jew in London, accompanied throughout by hilarious tales of the trials of life with mother Doris.
His love of soccer is a constant thread as he travels to America to study literature, to Jerusalem to teach, and to Boston to teach, write, and raise a family.
Jonathan, director of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, and author of two novels, two collections of short stories, and a biography of Marc Chagall, infuses his tale with such a varied and pertinent flow of erudition that he manages the unlikely: to make soccer a thinking man’s game.
His literary and artistic digressions while dashing down the wing with the ball and getting fouled are hilarious and brilliant. He enlists the aid of the philosopher Jacques Derrida as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky to explain his juvenile (yet lasting) pain at not making the Willesden Under 11 soccer team.
But oh, the delusions of the aging. Playing in the over-40’s league, Wilson gleefully sprints down the line only to overhear his son tell his girlfriend, “It’s like he’s running in slow-motion.”
He charts his growth from distracted schoolboy to author and professor, via his childhood encounters with endemic British anti-Semitism, his family’s woes, and his years among artists and writers and poets in Jerusalem, with such sensitivity and humor, that this memoir is a true delight; it rings true at every turn.