20110514

Syed's opus takes a bad Bounce for one unconvinced reviewer

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Bounce, Matthew Syed’s thesis on the matter of whether sporting talent is inherent or acquired, may have received critical acclaim, even to the extent of winning the prize for Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards this week.
But that is not to say it is everyone’s cup of tea. Certainly not in the case of Michael Henderson, Syed’s former colleague on The Times, whose review in The Spectator is sceptical in general and takes exception in particular when the author steps beyond the boundaries of sport to suggest that Picasso and Mozart owed the brilliance of their work not to genius but to hours of practice. Renowed for his acerbic observations both as a sports writer and an arts critic, Henderson is bang in form.
“Picasso…apparently needed years of experience to paint Guernica. Well I never!" he rails. “More important, one might have thought, he had a temperament, a vision…that doesn’t feature in Syed’s reductive interpretation.”
He goes on…
“Mozart is also brought down a peg or two…it was the 3,500 hours of practice before his sixth birthday that set him on his way. Remember that the next time you listen to Così fan tutte or the D minor piano concerto.”
Not content with attacking the theories espoused,  Henderson turns on the author himself, whom he seems to believe ought to have spent more hours honing his own writing skills.
“Syed,” he says, “adopts the breathless manner of a sixth-former desperate to impress the examiners and scatters clichés over the pages with the gladdest of hands.”

Click here to read the full review…

…or judge for yourself by buying Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice.

Read more about The 2011 British Sports Book Award winners.

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