book cover of The Cardiff Team

The Cardiff Team

A collection of stories by

Publisher's Weekly
At their best, the 10 stories in this collection merge sensual matters with bookish ones and achieve a kind of intellectual eroticism. "Boys Smell Like Oranges," for instance, intercuts sections of teenage athletes basking in the afterglow of a soccer game with two elderly scholars walking in the same park and chatting about Kierkegaard and the wellsprings of beauty. Intellectual figures are often characters: Franz Kafka takes a cure at a spa in "The Messengers." More common, however, are stories about young men and precocious boys pretending to some Greek ideal of Eros. Two linked stories concern a licentious Boy Scout troop leader and his frisky charges; and the long title story is driven by sexual confusion among a mother, her new boyfriend, her 12-year-old son and his two best friends (one of whom is a child cross-dresser). With his young protagonists, Davenport (A Table of Green Fields) seems to be pointing toward some sort of Rousseauvian childhood ideal gone polymorphously perverse. The boyfriend in "The Cardiff Team," in fact, neatly gives voice to the author's essential concern when he recalls that, as a child, he learned that "finding out about what's in books and the world and feeling great in my pants were cooperative." Unfortunately, Davenport is too wrapped up in this notion to bother making the kids at all childlike. Instead of playful experimenters, these children are experts at life and all its nuances, using words like "lacunarity." While Davenport's intellectual curiosity is rampant, and his store of literary allusions endless, the cumulative effect of all this cerebral sex-play is coolly alienating.(Oct.)

Kirkus Reviews
Readers familiar with Davenport's cerebral fictions (A Table of Green Fields, 1993, etc.) will find more of the same in his latest collection: a handful of Poundian collages that burst with intellect, and then some tiresome studies in higher pederasty.

The former group includes another story based on incidents in the life of Kafka. In "The Messengers," he roams a nudist health spa and contemplates God and redemption. A similar extrapolation from intellectual history drives "Dinner at the Bank of England," in which Davenport imagines the conversation between George Santayana, the aphoristic philosopher from Harvard, and his host, a captain in the Royal Guard, a figure out of Kipling. "Veranda Hung with Wisteria" captures in a single paragraph the moment when Poe discovers the essence of Chinese poetry. In "Home," Davenport channels Defoe, in the voice of Crusoe returning to his island after a short voyage in his self-made boat. The crosscut dialogue of "Boys Smell Like Oranges" juxtaposes soccer players in a Parisian park with the conversation of Lévy-Bruhl and the ethnographer Leenhardt, whose trip to New Caledonia undermined his missionary zeal with anthropological relativism. The remaining stories all draw on Davenport's tiresome obsession with uncircumcised boys, all sexually liberated, and frolicsome in a healthy, clean, Scandinavian sort of way. In "The Meadow Lark," boyish innocence leads to exploring the taste of one's sperm. In "Concert Champetre in D Minor," forward-thinking parents approve of their boys' horseplay, the naked posters of adolescent boys on their walls, and their incessant masturbation. The longest narrative, the title story, set in the Parisian demimonde of two sexually liberated women with two young children, is a study in "urban anthropology, anarchy, and sex." Inspired by a painting of Delaunay's, the world of football, engineering, and flight serves as a backdrop to more groping, licking, sniffing, etc.

Davenport's sophisticated narratives, clever, bristling with esoteric allusions, obscure the leerings of a dirty old man and the cant of polymorphous perversity.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Used availability for Guy Davenport's The Cardiff Team

Hardback Editions

October 1996 : USA Hardback

Title: The Cardiff Team: Ten Stories
Author(s): Professor Guy Davenport
ISBN: 0-8112-1335-8 / 978-0-8112-1335-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: New Directions
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA