Thursday, 12 August 2010

Hitting Back: The Autobiography - Andy Murray

Hitting Back: The Autobiography
-Andy Murray

You have got to be kidding me.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

Let me get this straight. Andy Murray, as anyone who cannot avoid the sports pages, no matter how hard they try, knows is a twenty-one year old tennis star whose face has been splashed over various newspapers in expressions that, if I saw them on someone coming in my direction, I would seriously consider hitting him first. The publisher of this book, at least, has had the common sense to use a decent picture of Murray for the cover; that is, I think, the only common sense decision in the entire history of this book.

What – exactly – was the point of this? I cannot deny Murray’s achievements, although I would be a great deal more impressed if he had cured cancer or written the next Night’s Dawn trilogy, but I fail to see how this automatically qualifies Murray to write a book detailing his life…or, indeed, the right to have it published. I read slush as a volunteer and I have seen some real howlers of books in the list, and many of them have been far better works than this book. What does Murray, at 21, have to tell us? He’s certainly not the kind of world-shaker that General Franks was, and even Franks was criticized for putting a favourable gloss on his record of what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. Franks cannot be blamed for that, but he was very definitely a significant personage…unlike Murray, whose sole claim to fame is being a sports star. His desperate attempts to improve or expand the book by including a section on Dumblaine are, far from being interesting insights into how his mind was shaped, merely an attempt to benefit from one of the most shocking crimes in living memory.

I don’t know if Murray actually wrote the book. I wouldn’t put money on it, even though the quality of the writing is unbelievably awful. To cite a few examples…

Kipling’s wrong, by the way. You can’t treat them exactly the same. Triumph and disaster. I don’t. Triumph is clearly better. I have never liked losing. (p.1)

I didn’t want to train at one of the national centres in the UK because of the attitude of the players and some of the coaches…they’re spoiled and pretty lazy. Not every single player, but most. (p.50)

My mum is to blame for the state of British tennis…[he] said she should have had more children. (p.85)

The other issue in British tennis is how much people like to put you down. (p.91)

It wasn’t reported like that. The gist of the conversation was that I hated the English. They made up stories about me buying a Paraguay shirt. I never said that. It was a complete lie. (p.127)

To be honest, I think bananas are pathetic fruit. They don’t look great for a start. They’re not straight and I don’t like the black bit at the bottom…I’m more of a peaches and plums sort of guy. (p.155 – for God’s sake, all he had to do was say that he didn’t like bananas.)

I shouldn’t be the only player that can win matches for Britain (p.182)

Many things have been written and said about me that I wasn’t happy with because they didn’t reflect the kind of person I am (p.270 – God help him if THIS book reflects the kind of person he is)

I think I am still pretty young at twenty-one (p.289 – well, DUH!)

We think sport is so great in this country and yet we do so little to promote it to kids (p.289 – then perhaps you should make it FUN for ALL, instead of an hour or two of suffering for everyone, but the jocks.)

He comes across as a whiny brat or an incredibly conceited man.

Let me explore something of the events that catapulted Murray to stardom – or indeed anyone else like him. A young man with a remarkable talent is found by a talent spotter, trained, pushed harder, and keeps rising up. In the process, he is pushed into the public sphere and finds his life being scrutinized by journalists, reporters, and people keen to make money off him. (Such as the publishers of this book.) He will court controversy – Murray once was terrifyingly rude to a referee – and risk losing everything because of a stroke of bad temper. At some point, some newer, sexier star arrives on the screen, kicks the former star out of the limelight, and takes his place. Repeat ad infinitum. It will not be long before someone eclipses Murray and that, one hopes, will be the last we hear from him.

(David Beckham, to be fair, is an exception to this rule. But only because he married Posh Spice.)

This book is insulting to the readers, the entire British publishing industry, and everyone who has actually put effort into their writing. In ten years, no one will remember Andy Murray, and let us hope that this book vanishes without trace.

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