PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Medlar Lucan & Durian Gray, Dedalus, £9.99
Lucan and Gray are two coves who have given their lives over to the pursuit of decadence, a fact reinforced by their previous tomes that include The Decadent Cookbook, The Decadent Gardener and The Decadent Traveller.
They inform us here that all sports can be decadent and cite the bicycling antics of Alfred Jarry (a 19th century French fellow who was a big inspiration for the surrealists and certainly not adverse to getting off his head on absinthe, painting his face green, and cycling manically through his home town) and the sailing exploits of Donald Crowhurst (who attempted to win a round the world boat race by not sailing around the world – cheating basically). The book is packed with such anecdotes, literary allusions and what we should, in fact, even consider a sport (voyeurism or cocktail mixing anyone?). Fans of that august gentlemen’s journal, The Chap – and other assorted loafers - should find much to keep them away from the dreaded gym membership here.
A comparable iconoclasm characterizes the endeavours of a pair of modern-day decadents, Medlar Lucan and Durian Gray, the pseudonymous co-authors of The Decadent Gardener, Traveller and Cookbook, have now turned their attention to the sporting arena, contending that what was once 'a savage, unruly activity, has been seized, disinfected, and shackled by bourgeois rectitude'. Their response is an alternative history of sport in which a series of postures- 'The Fornicast','The Hydrophile', 'The Rider', 'The Gymnast', 'Sculptor of the Flesh' -gleefully reclaim the athlete as the decadent subject par excellence.
Rarely has a book about sport engaged me to the extent this one has with its sharp critical insights, its laugh out loud moments (these provoke nervous glances while reading on busses, trams and in pubs) and its ability to suggest an alternative and rich mode of thought about sport. This makes it that rare beast, an ironic book about sport that … is also a potent critical text that should both provoke and amuse.