Magazine article The Spectator

The Stuff of Novels

Magazine article The Spectator

The Stuff of Novels

Article excerpt

SPORT? How can you possibly spend your life writing about sport? To admit to liking sport is to declare yourself an intellectual pygmy. Indeed, to express a total distaste for all kinds of sport is prima facie evidence of considerable intellectual distinction.

It is intellectually acceptable, therefore, to read the front page of a newspaper, but not the back. And so the intellectual is stuck with - let us take a paper picked up from my floor at random - something about insurance, the latest on the royal yacht, and something about party politics: tales of cover-up and secrecy and matters of infinite triviality. Turn to the sport, and you find two gorgeous creatures in a crisis of personal combat, each trailing clouds of strange personal history - lovely girls exposing themselves, for in the agonies of competition an athlete is stripped naked before you. A tennis match is about forehands and backhands, but it is also a perfectly crafted dramatisation of what happens between parents and their beautiful and talented daughters.

Those who write on politics deal with matters of pressing attention that are ephemeral. But we who write on sport are dealing with eternals. I do not find myself drawn to writing about insurance. I prefer to take as my subjects, say, love, selfdestruction, obsession, beauty and betrayal. If you write on sport, your stock-in-trade is the stuff not of journals but of novels.

Which brings us to Mary Pierce, whose chief affectation is to describe herself as Sft 111/2 in. The first things you notice about her person, or are intended to, are her breasts. She wears tennis outfits specifically designed to maximise the impact - if that is the word I am looking for - of those impressive items. She is an Amazon who gives double value, and she queens it about the court, mistress of a million affectations. …

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