Friday, May 02, 2008

Atherton unpicks seam of Vaughan enigma

I have been vaguely aware of Michael Atherton’s ascent through the journalistic ranks. It hasn’t been full-on, consciousness, just a steady, distant understanding: like the catholic view of the Trinity.

Today he has an interview in The Times.

Now, just to set the scene, my view on interviews in papers is strong: especially when the hack attempts to set the scene. These pieces usually begin with the word “As” and then brutally followed by a “I walked into the strangely dark café…” Thereupon you are treated to ten full paragraphs of this failed novelist’s desperate musings as he gropes for some literary merit in an apparently cruel world where useless journos are excluded from excreting their clichéd, half-thought out piffle onto hard-back.

Sadly, this just system does not extend its regime into the world of newspapers. Any over-optimistically coined phrase is acceptable so long as it meets the deadline.

So, it was in this context that I met Atherton’s recent interview with some reservation.

These qualms were hastily confirmed when he began with:
“Nonna’s is a clean, well-lighted place on Sheffield’s…”

Oh no. Athers broke my rule. I only had one, you bastard, and you bloody broke it. Not only that, but references to Earnest Hemmingway in cricket pieces are a bit too university – don’t you think?

I would normally, at this point, throw my head back in disgust, yodel angrily and assail the random passenger to my right.

However, seeing as Athers, like an aortic tumour, has a soft spot in my heart, I gave him a second chance and continued reading.

Although he waits another four paragraphs before he reaches the point of the piece, he spends his acres of room wisely: he insinuates some insider property trading by the England captain and gratuitously insults Yorkshire folk as “pathetically self-absorbed”.

The Times needs to produce more of these cheap shots; I approve of them greatly.

Troublingly, the piece repeatedly points out its origins in Sheffield. Yet, the previous page has Michael Vaughan in Leeds. Surely, Schrödinger couldn’t have accidentally placed Michael Vaughan in his box? More likely: it took the recipient of a first class degree from Cambridge about a fortnight to toss off this piece.

Probably too busy down the pub. Or the bookies.

The actual interview part is rather plastic, so I would avoid reading the middle bits, if I were you. Just skim along to the final sentence, nay paragraph.
“Summer has arrived, and England’s captain bounces out into the sunlight in optimistic mood.”
I recommend re-reading that sentence. There is a lot of depth to it. It is a sentence laden with sunny metaphors. We asked by the author to imagine the England captain as if he were a beach ball, leaping into the salty air above a crowded beach in July. The sun beamishly leers the bouncing objects with warmth and approval. All is well.

It is a celebration of the ever-sizzling English weather. A climate which never disappoints us with constant, numbing drizzle or tamely knocking a catch to second slip after an attractive thirty.

So, Atherton’s not quite a heavy handed hack yet, but he’s getting there. We, in AYALAC, shall scrutinise his blossoming career with great attention.


Anonymous said...

Afey, I love Michael Atherton.

I think he may even have surpassed my surrogate father, Mark Nicholas.

This man is wonderful.

I sent an e-mail to the ask MA thing on the times website, and I'm hoping it gets chosen. If not, I'll cry.

Anonymous said...

Suave, what exactly did you ask Michael Atherton? There are some things they can't print in newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Lemon Bella, they didn't pick my question.

It was along the lines of..

When are you going to beat up Mark Nicholas and take up your rightful place as the new Daddy Suave?