Thursday, 2 April 2009

He's Fucking Codding, is Clough

On re-reading The Damned Utd, before going to see the film.

I think the novel is a brave attempt to write as someone else. Someone who was, in a way, public property for a long time, partly out of choice. So one of the difficulties for the author is that people already think they know this character. The temptation for the writer must then be to try and uncover new things about the man: but he is recently dead, and so emotions and relationships are raw, and unbiased evidence thin on the ground. How do you get round this? You let the man himself speak - copy interviews and columns - and you invent a personality. In this case you have an author whose speciality is State of the Nation type stuff. So your invented personality contains elements of what you understand to be the contemporary culture, and what you believe to be key elements of the time. In this case: despair, anger, and collapse generally. These become, in the case of Brian Clough, the dominant elements of the characterisation in the novel.

However I don't think David Peace is deliberately casting Clough in a bad light, or defaming him, as far as that is possible: I think he is trying to pinpoint the essence of a man through his time, and through his greatest failure. In a way, how we deal with failure is key to how we develop as people. By showing the range of emotions at this time from despair to a kind of false hope, to a thirst for vengeance, the author is simply drawing a kind of human life. It doesn't mean that he hates Clough, or thinks he was overrated, or whatever: but that drawing a crisis in someone's life is a more valuable exercise in creating or re-creating their character.

It's a good book, at times falling a little flat - the segments on the death of Clough's mother are brief and you don't get a deep sense of how this impacted him - and sometimes veering into pretension (the repetition. It repeats. Again and again it repeats. Over and Over. Over), but is an excellent imaginative novel and also a great contribution to cultural history. Read it.

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Sweet Cheeks said...
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