April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
WE’LL GET ‘EM IN SEQUINS: Manliness, Yorkshire Cricket and the Century that Changed Everything by Max Davidson (Wisden Sports Writing, 228pp; £18.99)
Any book that lists five reasons why Geoff Boycott might appear to be gay, despite evidence of what supporters might call his – ahem – robust heterosexuality, or that Jimmy Porter, anti-hero of John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’, if had played cricket, would have been a role model for Fred Trueman, is having a laugh, right? Well, yes – and it’s a good one. Cricket, like anything else, is a signifier of cultural change and Davidson selects seven typical Yorkshire cricketers to chart social changes in class and masculinity over the past century. The metrosexualisation of Yorkshire cricketers from George Hirst, an Edwardian stereotype of manliness, to Darren Gough dancing in sequins on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and Michael Vaughan, virile enough to carry off a pink polo shirt and cry on camera, is now complete. There will be letters of protest from the Long Room, no doubt, but Davidson gets it right.
THE WOLF PIT: A Moorland Romance by Will Cohu (Chatto, 246pp; £14.99)
Aficionados of memoirs recognise immediately that any romantic, nostalgic, even idyllic opening chapter will inevitably progress to family disunity, personal disaster and, more than likely, tragic death. It’s trite, maybe, but it is a classic model of literature and can hardly be bettered. The modern prototype is ‘Bad Blood’ by Lorna Sage, and Will Cohu follows the template, though he is less damning of his family than Sage and more disappointed in himself. His focal point is Bramble Carr, his maternal grandparents’ house on the North York Moors and the small, isolated community he knew there as a boy and young man. It is the home, and the extended family, he has irretrievably lost. Though it opens in the mid-1970s, the period detail is of a wholly distant time, a different country: but the family story is in many respects, eternal and still painful. Cohu prays it a bittersweet resquiescat.
THE EVENT OF LITERATURE by Terry Eagleton (Yale, 252pp; £18.99)
By ‘event’ Eagleton means, broadly, the creation, reading and criticism of literature; the transformative practices by which the ideal, truthful state of a piece of literary writing becomes revealed. Defining ‘literature’ in common sense terms, he broadly and empirically characterises it as “a work which is fictional, or which yields significant insight into human experience as opposed to reporting empirical truths or which uses language in a peculiarly heightened, figurative or self-conscious way, or which is not practical in the sense that shopping lists are, or which is highly valued as a piece of writing.” On the “quacking duck” paradigm: if it looks literary, sounds literary and is esteemed as literary, then it is probably a literary work. In this book, which seems to be a summation of his long career as a literary theorist, Eagleton offers a shrewd historical synthesis of the interaction between literature and the common culture.