Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's saturday so it must be football. (Bad language can be heard on the terraces)

Wow! On Matthew's recommendation I've started The Damned Utd. by David Peace. I'm only 50 pages in but it's a staggering work that is quite simply the best novel I've read in ages. It's also like nothing else I can think of. It feels like a completely new, groundbreaking form that Peace is writing here but with overtones of the epic prose poems of the past. It also manages to be a work that can evoke and awaken so many of your own memories. Peace's turn of phrase is so clear, so pointed that sentences can send you into a reverie of your own past. I also can't think of a novel where all the characters are real people and all the situations are real. It is about Brian Clough's 44 days in charge of Leeds Utd in 1974 yet Peace really transcends any docu-drama elements to create a complete world. This has been called the greatest football novel yet. I'd say it is that but it is also a novel about men and one of the greatest I've come across that really gets what it means to be male. Take this passage. A paragraph that encapsulates the british male in all his grubby, boozy, leering, frightened, posing glory:

'The player's lounge, Elland Road. Deep in the west stand, off the main corridor. Round another corner. Two doors and a well-stocked bar. Low ceiling and sticky carpet. Easy chairs and no windows, only mirrors. Mirrors, mirrors on the walls. The smell of shampoo and christmas aftershave as they file in from the dressing room in their denim and their leather, with their gold chains and their wet hair, teasing and touching, picking and pinching, a gang of apes after a fuck, they form a circle, their heads as low as their knees in their easy chairs, they spread their legs and touch their balls and try not to look my way-
My Way, indeed.'

I love the phrase, 'a gang of apes after a fuck'. That pretty much sums up any group of men in this country doesn't it? That's what we are, a gang of apes waiting and trying to fuck and 'a gang of apes after a fuck'. Vulgar and crude but utterly brilliant.

Oh, and no need to add that it didn't make the Booker long list is it? It's not really a surprise.

(And in the spirit of the terraces and male bonding my uncle told my dad a joke who then told me: Did you hear about the man who mistook his sleeping pills and his viagra? He ended up having 40 wanks)


  1. David Peace is indeed among my top three UK writers working at the minute...

    As you say, way too raw and exciting for the Booker crowd.

  2. Doubt we'll get Marie to read The Damned Utd though...

  3. It's not the football. It's that I don't want to know what it means to be male. Not if it's dick-led monkeys. I've barely recovered from High Fidelity as it is.

  4. Yes and fully available to order from your friendly Waterloo-based independent bookshop. We post to Kansas... (and other places.)

  5. Is that 'after' as in afterwards, or 'after' as in 'looking for'? As in, 'I'm after a cup of tea'?

    I see David Peace still can't keep that note of contempt for the English out of his voice.

  6. You mean what it means to be a certain kind of English white male. Not withstanding the originality of this book, but fear of not being part of a group - no matter how bankrupt in its pursuits - seems to a dominant factor in social cohesion among public school toffs and working class lads. Still there are exceptions to such stereotypes...

    I read novels to see the fault line between individualism and the dubious social order of the larger group.

  7. Anonymous,

    I've been in lots of groups of men from varying backgrounds, jobs, positions and I've always been amazed at just how quickly the character of that group becomes painfully familiar.

    And I didn't quite get whether you had read the Peace book but it is all about Clough's individualism when confronted with the dubious social order of a larger group - Leeds Utd. So it should be right up your street.