Tuesday, February 26, 2008

boys books?

There is a lack of football fiction. There’s just not enough of it. And worse still not enough of it is good. I’ve been told by someone who knows books that boys, and those who foolishly believe they've arrived in a place called adulthood, prefer reading autobiographies. Ye know real stories. Stories based on fact. Like the two things are somehow inseparable.

If you were reading my autobiography you could bet your bahooki that there would be a few wee embellishments. Generally I think, while some measures of market analysis may reflect the male tendency towards reading other people’s life stories, I think it’s a load of pish.

Men probably do read autobiographies, but so do women, don’t they? If biography is the male choice, who’s reading James Paterson (titled in numerical order…Seriously). Who’s still reading Tom Clancy and Clive I-like-to-include-myself-in-my-stories Cussler novels? And who, tell me who, is reading Mathew Reilly’s ssheeick budoom Scarecrow stuff. What about John Birmingham’s hilarious Weapons series?

These are all works of fiction for boys. Girls may like them but they are for boys. Int they? And if they are for boys, then it follows that boys must read something other than autobiographies. Right?

To be honest I think people read. There are readers and there are non-readers. It doesn’t have anything to do with gender. Sure girls read girls books and boys read boys books, but having inappropriate genitalia for a genre isn’t going to stop someone from picking up a book, is it?

Autobiographies and biographies can be amazing, and that’s because people are amazing. Read The Long Walk to Freedom, Bill Clinton’s book, Biko and Malcolm X if you don’t believe me. They aren’t always good, but some of it can still be useful. I learned for example that Kenny Dalglish’s autobiography is just heavy enough to hold my office door open on its own. That’s where it will stay. I’d rather have someone else’s shite rubbed on my face than face reading it again.

In my research to date I have found within the confines of what would be considered football writing only a very small part of it is what would be pigeon holed as football fiction.

If you went to amazon.com and searched for books under football fiction there would be thousands of them. Most would be about that crazy gridiron game, Americans have misguidedly called football. There would be loads of instructional how tos for the dummies. Then there would be a plethora of autobiographies of football players, managers and commentators – people not necessarily known for their literary abilities. Have you ever heard Charlie Nicholas talk? Then in between the cracks there would be a handful of football fiction books and in amongst that handful there would be a couple of wee golden sweeties.

I’ve been asked to explain what football fiction is. It’s a question that requires consideration and context. I’m no lunging into any tackles just yet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

...millions of 'em and mostly bad...

There are lots of books about football. Like millions. Not all of them good. In fact very few of them are good. Seriously how can they be when people like Wayne Rooney have already published an autobiography. It’s in pretty colours and there are plenty of pictures, (thankfully not too many of him), he even got a chance to learn his abc’s, but he’ll never have McIllvanney concerned though will he?

It hasn’t even got the same notoriety of Cascarino’s or that equally shy and retiring wee man, Merson. Merson's, of course, reads more like Blow than a football autobiography, it’s still not something I’d count as a good football book.

Maybe you do. And each to their own. My old man used to say that opinions are like arseholes. Everybody’s got one. Some are just bigger than others. Still that’s why we’ve got blogs innit? Save talking the ears of people in the boozer.

I’m interested in reading good football fiction. I don’t care what kind of story it’s hung out on, or badly cemented into, so long as it’s good.

The Damned United by David Peace for example is a feckin’ belter. Des Dillon’s Return of the Busby Babes isn’t. Nothing more to say on that one.

Peace’s book, on the other hand, is undoubtedly the best book about football there’s been in a long time. Read it in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down. I’ll do a full review in a future entry - I’d like to feature quality football novels as a regular thing, my only concern being that there won’t be enough of them to make it last.

I’ll be concentrating on fiction, but I don’t mind the odd non-fiction number. In Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano is a blissful run through some classic football moments, Jeff Connor’s Pointless follows East Stirling, the worst team in Scotland, at through another dismal season. It would be magical, if it wasn’t so heartbreaking. And Joe McGinnis’ book The Miracle of Castel Del Sangro is a pasta-fuelled Italian job, played in hail, rain and shine under the shadow of the mob. A good read considering Joe’s relatively late introduction to the game.

If you’re interested or you’ve read something you thought was worth picking up, I’m looking for recommendations. by returning the favour, I hope to help you cut to the chase too.