Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Convalescent ~ "The Squared Circle" ~ Review by Niall Scott

The book he's on about
One of the best singular pieces of advice I've ever been given occured around about a year ago. It came from the highly-esteemed erstwhile 'Tittery' owner Gary Mason himself. Before a game of high-quality football amongst us potential gems that the scouts somehow missed out, he decided to relieve himself against a tree. Clearly disturbed by the sharpness of the air against this fragile area, he finished up, and shared this pearl of knowledge with the rest of us;

"Don't get your dicks out, lads"

Clear and concise, this immediately informed us of the potential perils of these wintery conditions, and that urination (or otherwise; I don't judge, and there are some CRACKING looking blokes in this particular group) would be terribly ill-advised. As far as I recall, it was advice universally heeded, and all players survived with bellends intact, which goes to show what a well-timed word in someone's ear can do.
Bag It Up
Unfortunately, on a recent diplomatic visit to Mexico, I failed to react to the fairly unoblique warning of "Ooh, I don't like the look of those chorizos". Not because I didn't respect the person who was saying this, but because I'm a sausage man, and I always will be. As a result, I ate more than one of these pork tempatations. And about 4 hours later was crippled by a genuinely unpleasant attack of food poisoning. To quote Darren Gough (obviously), "it was coming out of both ends and I didn't know what to think".

And alas, I was bed ridden for a day and then some.
Just a good photo this
And as tragic as that was, it did allow me to read. Yeah, an old school readeo down Mexico way, and no mistake. And the book I had with me was a wrestling book called 'The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling' by a bloke called David Shoemaker, and generally tries to cover the topics mentioned in that bit what I just wrote about twenty-six words before this one. And for your delictation, I will 'do' a review of it. In this next bit. Now.

Always getting involved
It must be quite difficult to pitch a wrestling book. Or so it would seem, given that there are very few available (aside from the very half-truthed WWE endorsed biographies), and that those that do get published need not only to grab the reader's interest via an entertaining topic, but they also need to breakdown the industry's nature for the non-wrestling reader, basically always having to give an explanation to the effect of:
"of course fans know it's 'fake'. They buy into it to be entertained, by the gross feats of athleticism that accompany and complement the colourful story telling and this can work, or fail, spectacularly. Do you think people enjoy, say, the films of David Lynch because they are convinced that they are 'real' and are therefore slobbering, duped idiots? Obviously fucking not..."
See, even a throwaway review has to go through this rigmarol, so I'd imagine it would be infuriating (or challenging) if this is your profession or genuine passion.
"Mr Shoemaker"
It's obvious that Mr. Shoemaker (fascinatingly enough, I was reading the book when I glanced at my phone and saw that Mr Racecar-agogo himself Michael Schumacher had been killed, or something. And I thought; "Oh, 'Shoemaker' is clearly the anglicized version of 'Schumacher'. Or vice versa. That's a very small, inconsequential coincidence, isn't it?") is passionate, which translates to his writing, carried lucidly by his way of condensing historical passages of wrestling 'eras' into informative scene-setting, rather than pointless, indulgent off-topic rambling about events not relevent to the subject in hand.
These are the glue that hold the chapters on dead wrestlers together. The choices for these profiles are not (Mr.) perfect though. The sections on less well-known stories like SD Jones, the truly tragic tale of the Von Erich clan or the Junkyard Dog are enlightening and well-paced, with some neat tying up of narratives too ("Poignant that Junkyard Dog's most famous feud in WWF was against Race").

But these sit alongside men like Macho Man and Andre The Giant, who are given essentially equal space and story-telling, despite the fact that they are much, much bigger figures in wrestling history. As a result, these profiles feel lightweight and surface if you are previously aquainted with them.

By the way, if you didn't know, Andre enjoyed his ale. And it never did him any harm. Until his premature death. 
Loved it the big fella

I think the book would benefit from trimming down the roster to either tell the story nearly exclusively from the tales of lesser-knowns, or really expand into more detail on the bigger stars; you feel Shoemaker knows enough to have been able to do this but has got caught between two stalls. The fact that the profiles are separated also means that, whilst making it a good 'dipping in' book, there is a lot of criss-crossing of history, making an otherwise brisk read appear repetitive.

The Lads
If you read it straight through, I defy you not to mumble under your breath "Oh, I fucking know Captain Lou Albano was Cyndi Lapuer's fake dad, how many times mate?".

And then get a strange look from the other person in the room at such an odd sentence.

And maybe that demonstrates the book's slighlty awkward disposition; it's not quite enough for a 'real' fan, but still not plain enough to follow for non-wrestling fans (or 'Gobshites', as they are called in the biz). Not to bash it though, I really enjoyed it, and it helped me through my digestion ailments tremendously. Even as I was wiping the yellow-bile-dribble away from my already vomit-stained chin, the passage about 'Ravashing' Rick Rude "sucking his own dick" was mentally soothing me. So to speak.
Loved it
What have we learned? Well, that book what I just writ about is good in some ways but not good in some other ways.

But more importantly, (and this awkward conclusion pains me almost as much as it will the aforementioned LOT CEO, who recently railed against such peurile humour and correctly labelled them 'King Of The Foods'), that listening to, and acting upon, sausage-based advice is imperative in this day and age.

And I think that's something we can all agree on.