Saturday, September 27, 2008

...but I didn't inhale.

Recently I read Breath by favoured son, golden child of the Australian literary world, Tim Winton. It's a great book, a beautiful book, a book to be inhaled in a single lung-bursting gulp. I have some issues with the way he writes women though. They always tend to be awkward, not characterwise, but kind of undercooked or under developed I'm not sure what. Still,like I say, a great book.

It’s also about surfing. So is it surf fiction? Logic would follow that that makes it a sports fiction novel. Right?

If it is, it would be a literary sports fiction novel, because if it was just a sports fiction book the literati's bingo wings would be close to wobble overload. Hearts fluttering for all the wrong reasons. That is, of course, unless cynical publishers chose to target a sports fiction audience?

Now its not football fiction, I can see why you’re asking. It did make me wonder if there would ever be a fit on the shelf for it. There isn't, but it made me consider what it takes to make a football fiction book? Beyond binding pages together and filling them with load of balls obviously.

In the 1920’s this geezer called Vladimir Propp studied a collection, his collection - it was huge as well - of fairy stories. Makes you wonder. He then drew up, I should say circumscribed, a set of 31 parameters a fairy tale needs to qualify as a tale for eh, fairies. The things that make a good fairy tale good, is what I should have said, ye know like a wizened old crone with a poisoned apple and a penchant for eating gingerbread men or a big hairy, shiny-toothed wolf with a taste for cross dressing. They’re bad examples, but you get the point.

So this led me to think that it might be possible to develop, I mean circumscribe, a set of parameters for football fiction. Like really carve it out as a meritorious niche. What academics would call a genre of narrative discourse…but where to start?

First, I’d say, to qualify the stories have to include a game, watched or played. From the pitch, the stand or memory. To gloriously, or otherwise, celebrate the game through character participation in the spectacle.

Most of the examples I’ve reviewed so far have all enjoyed this faculty.

So what’s next? What other signifiers could there be? Is there a difference in the stuff for young adult and adult football fiction? Any ideas?


Paula Weston said...

Interesting question. I certainly didn't consider Breath surf lit, and may not have picked it up if had been marketed that way. Which begs the question: do stories featuring football need to be marketed as "football lit" anyway? A tag like that will tend to turn off readers not interested in football (and thus rob them of the other narrative gems offered in a story that may be about so much more than football). I guess it would depend on the target audience. Who do you want to target with your stories?

the ink-stained toe-poker said...

You've raised an issue I've been struggling with all week. I was a member on a panel at a conference and I had to read some of my own stuff so I wrote some football fiction. My issue? - should I writethe football so that everyone will understand or approach it like Winton has where we learn about it at the same rate as the character does? Do I just write it and hope people will understand, is that just preaching to the converted? I don't know the answer. In my reading I think people got lost when it came to the football but got something from my presentation of it. The Q&A afterwards also gave me a chance to discuss the football a wee bit more too.
Its something I'm going to look at in writing these pieces for my Pee Haitch Dee, so I'll see what happens... I hope that answers the questions westie.. oh and by the way it definitely is surf fiction whether you'd read it or's just higher brow than say Sam De Brito's book Lost Boys.