Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Onna Darts, Innit?

"You don’t never show no disrespect for the darts." Posted by Hello

The world of darts is busting out of the British Isles. The NYT’s reports today on the increasing worlwide popularity of competitive dart matches, bringing the sport out of the smoke and haze of pub culture into the bright lights of TV cameras. I’ve thrown a few games of cricket and 501 in my time, but never in competition. But while reading about the assorted characters that darts attracts, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite novels, “London Fields,” by Martin Amis, who created one of the most memorable protagonists in modern British literature – the criminal/dart-thrower Keith Talent. Shortly after its US debut, the NYT gave this following assessment:

Keith Talent represents Mr. Amis's best creation in the book - a grotesque who is nevertheless both surprisingly vivid and desperate. It is a portrait done in verbal glitter. Yet Keith's dispassionate cruelty is almost mythlike. Born into poverty and emotionally without resources, he seeks escape by becoming a petty thief and professional cheat. He yearns for the best that life offers, at least in his terms -a dart-throwing championship and television-celebrity status.

For a bit of pure, self-indulgent pleasure, please read the following passage between Keith and Sam, the novel’s narrator, culled from my well-worn copy, which, I might also add, is personalized by the author:

In an atmosphere of tingling solemnity I approached the oché, or throwing line, 7ft 9 ¼ ins from the board, ‘as decided’, glossed Keith, ‘by the World Darts Federation.’ Weight on the front foot; head still; nice follow through. ‘You’re looking at that treble 20,’ whispered Keith direly. ‘Nothing else exists. Nothing.’

My first dart hit the double 3. ‘Insincere dart,’ said Keith. My second missed the board altogether, smacking into the wall cabinet. ‘No clinicism,’ said Keith. My third I never threw: on the backswing the plastic flight jabbed me in the eye. After I’d recovered from that, my scores went 11, 2, 9; 4, 17, outer bullseye (25!); 7, 13, 5. Around now Keith stopped talking about the sincerity of the dart and started saying ‘Throw the fucking thing in there’. On and on it went. Keith grew silent, grieving, priestly. At one point, having thrown two darts into the bare wall, I dropped the third and reeled backward from the oché, saying – most recklessly – that darts was a dumb game and I didn’t care anyway. Keith calmly pocketed his darts, stepped forward, and slammed me against a heap of packing cases. Our noses were almost touching again. ‘You don’t never show disrepect for the darts, okay?’ he said. ‘You don’t never show no disrespect for the darts. . . You don’t never show no disrespect for the darts.’

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