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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of comic writing
Stephen Potter was an interesting writer. He made a name for himself in the 1930s with one of the earliest book-length studies of DH Lawrence, and then as the editor of the prestigious Nonesuch Press edition of the selected works of Coleridge. After that he went into the BBC, where he worked as a radio producer for years.

During Potter's time in the BBC his...
Published on 13 Mar 2009 by lexo1941

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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book - Great Movie
This is the book that was the basis for the great Arthur Sims and Ian Carmichael movie The School for Scoundrels.
While not as easy to read as the movie was to watch it is a funny look at the quaint practices of sportmansship and seduction within the upper classes.
Enjoy.
Published on 2 April 2002 by Paul Conder


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of comic writing, 13 Mar 2009
By 
lexo1941 (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating (Paperback)
Stephen Potter was an interesting writer. He made a name for himself in the 1930s with one of the earliest book-length studies of DH Lawrence, and then as the editor of the prestigious Nonesuch Press edition of the selected works of Coleridge. After that he went into the BBC, where he worked as a radio producer for years.

During Potter's time in the BBC his gift for comedy made itself known in a small-scale way, but nobody predicted that "Gamesmanship", published shortly after the Second World War, would not only make him famous but also cement a crucial word into the English language. The book "Gamesmanship" is, to all appearances, a serious summary of recent research into (as the subtitle suggests) "the art of winning games without actually cheating". It sketches details of "ploys", "gambits" and "hampers" designed to throw one's opponents off their games and psychologically undermine them, without doing so in a way that is liable to cause offence or alert them about what's going on. The truth is, of course, that the "research" is all made up. Potter simply observed what he and his friends did, and made up the rest.

For example, consider the hoary old snooker-player's trick of standing in one's opponent's line of sight. "Gamesmanship" rejects this as unsporting, on the grounds that it's just plain rude. Far more damaging is to behave as though one is worried that someone -else- is standing in one's opponent's line of sight. This has the double effect of frazzling the opponent and making him feel like he owes you one.

Ultimately, of course, this is not a serious handbook at all but a sublimely comic and subversive work about English manners. (Yes, English. There is little about Potter's work that isn't about a pretty traditional kind of Englishness, although the later "Supermanship" reflects his experiences in America.) The central joke of Potter is that every kind of traditional English "nicechap" behaviour is capable of being deployed ruthlessly as a weapon of social combat. Potter's genius was to realise that social embarrassment was at the heart of so many different kinds of social interaction in England, and perhaps in all of the UK; all one had to do was codify a way to make other people feel vaguely ashamed of themselves, and sporting and social success was yours for the taking. In his deadpan, forensic, genial way, Potter is as funny as Wodehouse and arguably more cutting and satirical. A small part of the fun lies in spotting the guest appearances of his friends: such minor but colourful figures of mid-C20 English cultural life as C.E.M. Joad, Joyce Grenfell and Maurice Baring all turn up as seminal figures in the painstaking codification of Gamesmanship.

Potter developed the idea in three classic sequels, "Lifemanship", "One-Upmanship" and "Supermanship", and then turned to writing other kinds of book before revisiting the field again at the end of his life. Unfortunately, the last "-manship" books, "Anti-Woo" and "The Complete Golf Gamesmanship" are not up to his peak form. Fortunately for his reputation, they are long out of print.

His travel book "Potter in America" and his memoir "Steps to Immaturity" are worth reading, especially the former for its picture of 1950s America, but for the Potter novice this is the place to start. Most writers known as "humorists" suffer from being not very funny. Potter is still funny because he never seems to be trying to be funny. The "advice" is always offered as if it were genuinely helpful. The underlying conceit - that human beings are driven solely by the need to feel superior to one another - is worthy of Swift.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winning without Cheating, 29 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating (Paperback)
When Gamesmanship was published, it was hugely influential for a generation. These days, we expect our sportsmen and women to behave badly and even cheat. It would be harsh to blame Gamesmanship for this. However, Gamesmanship was the first book to point out the lengths some players will go to to win; Stephen Potter was an avid games player and keenly observes how games players put each other off. Influential in adding the words gamesmanship and ploy into the dictionary (in their modern meaning anyway). Some bits sadly are now a little dated, but if you bear that in mind you won't be disappointed.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book - Great Movie, 2 April 2002
By 
Paul Conder "can be found on twitter @peecee6... (Auckland New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games without Actually Cheating (Paperback)
This is the book that was the basis for the great Arthur Sims and Ian Carmichael movie The School for Scoundrels.
While not as easy to read as the movie was to watch it is a funny look at the quaint practices of sportmansship and seduction within the upper classes.
Enjoy.
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