Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Zippin up my Roots

I've just picked up a copy of Alex Haley's Roots from the library. It's a good read, and once I started getting into it, memories of the TV series came flooding back (I once visited the outdoor set at Golden Oaks ranch in California, where some of the sequences in Roots II were shot, and my word, how evocative and amazing was that, even though Roots II was crap compared to Roots?) and I became curious around the subject. Intriguing that this partly phony exploration of a man's personal history should cause a refelction on my own. I think it must have been 1976 or 1977 when the programme was on TV, and I was in the early years of my secondary education. Every Monday would entail a ritual Kunta Kinte or Chicken George impression among those of us at Oswestry Boys High School. My own family tree stops dead on my mother's side (a little further back on my dad's side - as far as a housemaid in rural Kent - about 4 generations before my dad) just before my great grandmother, thanks to some, shall we say, extra-marital issues, so how incredible, I thought, for this guy to be able to trace his family history so far back (to mid 18th Century Gambia, in case you were unaware and interesed) and I admit I wondered how it was done.

Well of course it turns out that he not only didn't actually trace his (whole) family tree, but more than that, he stole large chunks of the book from someone else's novel. What a crock! Harold Courlander (for it was he from whom the work was nicked) seems a fascinating character, responsible for some invaluable research into oral traditions in Africa, North America and elsewhere. Harold received an out of court settlement for the admitted plagiarism, though may have been wiser - given the huge success of the franchise - to have taken his case all the way. He probably didn't receive as much as he could have (the information in the Roots link above seems to say that the settlement was around $650,000, in 1978) through a rights deal, but also the fame associated with such a seminal piece of work lies solely with Mr Haley. Anyway, having just passed the circumcision scene, I will continue with the book and hunt out the series on YouTube or elsewhere, while fomenting my own imagined youthful adventures among the arafangs of Oswestry town.

All of which brings me to footballing roots, and a remark made on Sunday while I was in the corner shop at the same time (oh happy chance!) as a Rag, shortly after the match had finished. "You don't sound as if you're from Manchester...?" he said, gauntly, and I replied: "No, I'm not." Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Kompany red card, I think the time has well passed for City fans to get over it. We don't want to end up looking like sour grapes Scousers bemoaning our fate, especially as everyone knows we've got tons and tons of cash and about 600 players out on loan. I personally think we should take great comfort in our performance, reflect on what was an excellent match and get on with playing Liverpool. Again. And again. And again.

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