D.h. lawrence

What do Beethoven, D.H. Lawrence and George Best have in common?

This is not a book about tennis. Roger Federer appears early on, trailed by the obligatory question ‘When will he retire?’ He figures more prominently in the final 80 pages – still looking, despite the imminence of hanging up his racquet, as if he moves ‘within a different, more accommodating dimension of time’. There are cameos from some of the game’s other stars at various points on the way to the exit: the young Bjorn Borg (‘heir to some non-specific Scandinavian malaise’), the often crocked Andy Murray (‘a mumble-core Hamlet’) and the middle-aged, disgraced Boris Becker (afflicted by a ‘hitherto unseen condition called testicular elbow’). But the title is a

An impossible guest: Second Place, by Rachel Cusk, reviewed

A great writer must be prepared to risk ridiculousness — not ridicule, although that may follow, but the possibility that the work will collapse into some or other version of nonsense. If it doesn’t, though, it is precisely the elements that flirt with disaster that will likely make it both superficially distinctive and artistically substantial. For the novelist and memoirist Rachel Cusk, whose most recent creation, the ‘Outline’ trilogy, attempted a savage blending of the two forms, risk comes frequently in the form of sailing dangerously — and, for her admirers, thrillingly — close to the parodic. Second Place, which in bare-bones description tells of what happens if you invite