I really liked last year’s highly-reviewed novel by Joseph O’Neill, Netherland. What is it about an oblong beige bat, a small rubber ball, and a squadron of men in crisp white uniforms that sends half of the world into a dither? What is it about bowlers (not the kind in rented shoes), wickets and wicket-keepers, and the six hours of playing time over two or more days that evokes tea sandwiches and transnational amity? Netherland invites these questions, and more, with an intricacy and intelligence rarely broached in the recent flourish of immigrant-experience books and films. Nothing comes easy in O’Neill’s complex novel—neither dreams nor lengthy jaunts through a New York populated by “others.” The novel’s true dilemma might be the placement of its eponymous, ambiguous locale. What could “netherland” mean, after all? Does it stand for nothing more than the Dutch, the first colonizers of a city that has been continually re-colonized by its immigrants in turn? The result is real insight into the resettlement of an old colony by new and optimistic émigrés.
Bio: Swetha Regunathan is assistant editor of Guernica. Her last article, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”:http://www.guernicamag.com/features/916/wholl_stop_the_rain/ appeared in Guernica’s March 2009 issue.