Monday, March 19, 2012

If Holden Caulfield Played The PSA...Review of Sex, Drugs, Squash N' Roll

If Holden Caulfield ("Cathcher in the Rye"), the penultimate bad boy of Preparatory School and adolescence were alive today and played squash and was a master mixer at illegal raves he’d probably fit nicely into the role of Aubrey Waddy’s main character (Jolyon) in his novel Sex, Drugs, Squash N’ Roll. This is a very entertaining novel, and I repeat novel, on so many different levels. Aside from being cleverly written, believe it or not, squash players can lead interesting lives, the book also provides a plethora of information about the professional squash tour, namely the Professional Squash Association (PSA). While all the squash characters are fictional, their squash world is what I imagine as very real – even with great names like aspiring World Number 1 phenom Joylyon to women’s world champion Zoe Quantock, to names like Razza Mattaz to their inimitable squash guru and champion architect Sailor McCann (I want to change my name to “Sailor”).

Waddy seems to have stalked the hallways and byways of the current youth culture along with the squash galleries and locker rooms to produce these squash vignettes that weave professional squash play with the fiercely and sometimes mean spirited play for PSA ranking points and sponsorship. As you will read, it can be metaphorically a matter of life and death. The book traces the discovery and development of a phenomenal junior squash player in the UK as he rises to the top of the squash world, through sheer determination and often in spite of the difficulties he finds himself in. While he is a great and dutiful squash soldier, he balances this with a bit of the Caulfield rebelliousness and champions himself against all those “phonies” out there who can make a young man’s pursuit of truth and beauty and championship squash very difficult. In spite of himself, he is a great character, the kind of son, regardless of the success in squash that any father would be proud of – provided he didn’t know quite all the going one’s that a contemporary teenager experiences in the sordid world of sex and drugs.

By all means, don’t for a minute think that Waddy has produced an antihero type in the squash world that can live a life of sex and drugs and squash -- very much the contrary. But like every ancient hero on a quest for fame and fortune or truth and beauty the road is fraught with all sorts of temptations. The truly great champions and great human beings don’t judge what goes on around them; they live in this world and take everything this world has to offer. They champion what is good, and in true Caulfield-like fashion mock what is bad. Jolyon can be Caulfield; he can also be a brooding Achilles, or wily Odysseus. While the anti-hero used to be the bad guy that turned the good upside down, the world has changed; Jolyon is the good guy turning the bad upside down.

What is inspiring about this book is that Waddy seems to have created a character that has not followed any recipe, is not part of the legions of juniors aspiring to squash stardom. He’s taken a player with little squash experience and with his mentor, Sailor McCann, has designed a map for stardom and success. Of course he has to have some superb qualities to rocket him to the tops of the PSA, in Jolyon’s case, phenomenal physical and aerobic attributes. How realistic is this story? It doesn’t matter. The beauty of what Waddy is saying is that no matter what you aspire to you don’t have to follow any prescription, yes you need talent, and dedication, and physical, great physical abilities in squash for elite play, but because you didn’t develop your game, your talents along the usual manner doesn’t mean you can’t strive for that achievement, eventually becoming champion.

While most squash players at an international level have been playing since they were very young, Jolyon started playing at 16. Who is to say that can’t happen, who is to say that you must follow the recipe of starting early and hopefully by the time you are 17 years old knowing whether or not you are good enough to someday become champion. Yes, Jolyon forgoes college to pursue this dream. He is driven, he has to be, mostly to prove an overbearing mother who pushed him into tennis wrong about doing what is best for yourself, even if it means going against your parents... As a trust fund child, who loses access to his trust fund because he goes against his mother’s imperatives, Jolyon finds his way from the point he started, nothing more, nothing less. While his trust fund might be the impetus to achieve world number 1 ranking by the age of 21, never in the book or the development of this character do you sense that is his motivation. As he says, he has the chance to be the best in the world number 1 among millions.

The book has a fantastic twist and turns into a fast pace suspense and thriller. You won’t be able to put it down. As Jolyon gets closer and closer to his goals at squash number 1 the forces of darkness and evil are preparing their obstacles…

I recommend this book not only to the entire squash community, but also anyone who wants to read a really entertaining novel which just happens to be about squash. Waddy is a world master’s champion who has been involved in squash for many years. Look for an in depth interview forthcoming from squashdashersbashers about this author and squash master.

( Kindle edition

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