Games Oligopolists Play

Review by Hal Niedzviecki
Book of the Month review,
Broken Pencil #15, Spring 2001, p. 11.

Not exactly a zine, not exactly a book, not exactly anything you’ve ever seen before this can only be the work of one man...That’s right, Rob Kovitz and his Winnipeg based Treyf books are back with yet another of their strange wonderful foul little texts. Games Oligopolists Play is a backbreaking check, a stick to the face, a protruding knee, a – well, okay, you get the idea. In this book, Kovitz juxtaposes vintage hockey scenes and pictures of “oligopolists” such as Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney, with texts from old hockey guides, economic textbooks and works of political theory. I don’t usually quote from the back of the book when reviewing, but in this case, I figure, it’s not only appropriate but necessary. So: “Games Oligopolists Play is an illustrated guide to oligopolists playing at Canada’s national sport, along with pointed commentary from prime minister Jean Chretien, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and hockey analyst Don Cherry. For beginning and advanced fans alike.” If that doesn’t help you, well, then, I suspect nothing will! Okay, here’s the serious part of this review. Kovitz is a conceptual artist whose medium is the book. In playing with the images and theories of sport and politics and money, he, somehow, manages to show us the connections between these seemingly diverse pursuits. Without a single pedantic moment – but with several hilarious ones – Kovitz navigates the back corridors of the arena of power before turning the zamboni of spectacle out onto the ice. I’ll leave you with the image of a goalie making a dramatic save circa 1975. The crowd roars, the shooter groans, the defence sighs in relief, and Kovitz reminds us what’s really at stake: “Oligopoly – like international diplomacy, labor-management negotiations, and so on – is one of the speediest and most thrilling of sports.” (HN)


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