……….At the risk of sounding like a right old fart, when I was a kid, comics I read were simple and straightforward! They were usually stories about kids taking part in a sort of undeclared war with some adult or other or they were stories about heroes, who also seemed to be engaged in some sort of undeclared war with other adults!If I’m honest, I never thought of them as reading – they were simply momentary fleeting though enjoyable diversions – but they were simple, repetitive, formulaic and a bit predictable to say the least. The only debates we ever had were about which was best – were you Beano or Dandy, were you The Victor or Hotspur, and were you Oor Wullie or The Broons(this is a uniquely Scottish thing!)
Just a few days into the New Year however, the announcements for the final shortlist for the Costa Prize sparked a whole different kind of debate about comics. It started when the shortlists were first announced back in November. Giles Coren, who some might describe as a journalist and society commentator in publications like The Times, (and who others might simply describe as a dickhead!) started it all off with a bit of a rant in The Spectator about the literary establishment, the meaningless nature of a literary prize and accusing the prize and the literary establishment of condescendingly thinking that by including a comic book on the shortlist they were conferring a legitimacy on comic books as literature. At least that’s what I THOUGHT old Giles was droning on about. Cue backlash – and not from the literary establishment but the comic book genre’s most strident supporters! There ensued what you might just about call a debate between those who agreed or disagreed with Coren – but to be honest it read more like an exchange of insults and name-calling! If you want to read it in its entirety, it’s here at The Spectator
Personally I’ve not read a comic book – or a ‘graphic novel’ as I learned they are called from the comments to old Coren’s ramble – in fact the comment was “You clearly haven’t a clue what you are talking about……..EVERYONE refers to them as graphic novels!!!”. Now put your hand up if you didn’t know that! I’ve not read either of the comic books/graphic novels shortlisted for the Costa Prize, Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart and the one that made it to the final list, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot. However I do quite like the sound of the Talbot’s book and so I might dip my toe into the world of comic books…ahem… graphic novels, yet!
But even if I enjoy the book, I can’t see me ever getting as steamed up as some of the people who love the genre were by Giles Coren’s article – it was like watching on as Britain’s professional “MR ANGRY” (if you don’t know Giles Coren’s stuff, it’s easy to summarise – he doesn’t like anything really!) was outdone and put back in his box by a succession of amateur MR ANGRY’S who were much more indignant and therefore vitriolic than anything he ever writes – perhaps while some of them might have been a bit deranged they were at least genuine in their feelings unlike Giles!
Anyway all this talk of comic books makes me feel rather nostalgic – so here are my top five comic book characters from my childhood
1. Roy Race – Had he been a Scotsman, and real, we’d have taken him to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978 and we’d have won it – even that bloody eejit Ally McLeod couldn’t have messed up a team with Roy Race in it! He was the second greatest footballer I ever saw – obviously no one will ever surpass Eric Cantona!
2. Alf Tupper – the Tough Of The Track. A comic strip hero of the old days – a middle distance athlete with one important characteristic that I adored – he was a working-class bloke and he was a great athlete who beat posh blokes – I believed in it all the way until the ultimate posh bloke, Sebastian Coe, beat Steve Ovett in Moscow Olympics in 1980 – the revenge of the “toffs” that was! Bastard – he’d never have beaten Eric Cantona over 1500m though!
3. Billy’s Boots – I think this was in Scorcher. Billy was a kid mad-keen on football – but he was rubbish. Until that is he gets a pair of ancient old boots, I think worn by the great Dixie Dean (or at least modeled on him). The old boots transform Billy into the kid who plays like Eric Cantona – without them he’s more like Eric Morecambe! My younger brother must have read these when he was little and believed in it – how else can I explain why he’d buy the most expensive boots in the shops to play for our Sunday League team and still be completely shite every week! To be honest, my brother would have been shite even if he’d been wearing Cantona’s boots!
4. Photo stories in Jackie comic! My sister used to get this to read – I took the piss out of it mercilessly. But when nobody else was around I used to read it for two things – the Cathy and Claire problem page (it had such gut-wrenching dilemmas as “How Can I Kiss Him When He’s Got A Cold Sore!” and “My Trendy Clothes Are Ruining Our Relationship!”) and for the romance photo-stories!!! My sister read these for the romance – I read them for tips on girls, kissing and chat up lines I could steal and use – I discovered that while these maybe worked on a photo-shoot in the exotic, bright light, Friday night, streets of London they were bloody useless on a wet and windy Tuesday in Greenock! (I know it was wet and windy because it is ALWAYS wet and windy in Greenock!)
5. Desperate Dan. He, more than anyone, started my love affair with the pie! I’ve never eaten a cow pie – but he started my life long love of Scotch pies and any other kind of pie! If I’m honest, I’d really say my pie love was triggered by “Aulds”, the most popular bakers shop in Greenock in the 60′s and 70′s – but since they never made it to comic book legend status, Dan will have to do!
6. Yes I know I said my favourite five, but as I started with Giles Coren, I’ll end with him. Is he a comic strip himself? Well my definition of the comics I read as a kid was “simple, repetitive, formulaic and a bit predictable to say the least”. Have a look at some of Giles Coren’s article – I think you’ll find he fits this definition perfectly!
………. I hope you noticed the nice mix in the titles for this post – the classic false modesty from the comedian Jack Benny followed by my own unlimited arrogance and vanity in announcing “my book of the year awards!!!!”
In a way though starting this post with Jack Benny is rather appropriate – his first words on Ed Sullivan’s radio show in the US in the early thirties was supposed to have been “This is Jack Benny talking. There will now be a short pause while you sit at home thinking - ‘who cares?!”.
It just fits perfectly for:-
“This is my Book Of The Year Awards” post and there will now be a gap of at least two lines…
……….while you have a chance to think – who the hell cares!!!!!
But if you reached this line you must be intrigued, so stick with it till the end – you won’t be disappointed!
Well…..actually….. you might be disappointed at the end, but I’ll leave a couple more empty lines so I can think “So you’re disappointed! What the hell do I care?!”
And so my awards! I’ve read a lot of good books this year, heard some great music, seen some great gigs – and eaten some lovely pies! So here are my awards for 2012!
1. TV Programme Location of the Year
The award goes to BBC’s “Waterloo Road” which is now filmed at “Greenock Academy”, my old school in Scotland. It allows me to indulge in spotting familiar walls, corridors and pupil toilets – which instead of impressing my daughter actually bores her rigid!
If you can get over the fact that they moved the school from England to Scotland and took all the kids with them into a sort of cult-cum-boarding unit, then the best of all is that while the BBC have tarted the building up for the fictional school, the quality of the teaching in the fictional school looks just as shite as I remember it being in the real school!!!
2. Book Week Of The Year
Much as I enjoyed the Muriel Spark Reading Week, the award for me goes to the Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week, which Annabel’s House of Books hosted back in June of this year. I’d not read any of Beryl Bainbridge’s stuff before-hand – I loved it – quirky and sharp and just wonderful. It turned me from a Beryl-virgin to a Beryl-lover almost overnight!
3. The ‘Well Bugger Me I Didn’t Know That!’ Award for 2012
Thanks to book blogs I read quite a bit about the centenary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912. And through that I discovered that Birdie Bowers, who accompanied Captain Scott and was one of those who died alongside him at the end, originally came from my home town of Greenock in Scotland. We seem to make little of the connection which is odd to say the least as Greenock isn’t exactly bustling with well known explorers, actors, sportsmen, politicians or well known anythings! Anyway it led me to read a bit about his life – truly amazing man!
4. Best Bit Of Poetry Learned Off By Heart This Year Award
I’ve loved several new collections this year but my favourite was Seamus Heaney’s “Human Chain!”. And from the poem ‘Route 101′ I loved learning the following lines (and love boring people to death reciting them!)
“In a stained front-buttoned shopcoat / Sere brown piped with crimson / Out of the Classics bay into an aisle / Smelling of dry rot and disinfectant / She emerges, absorbed in her coin count / Eyes front, right hand at work / In the slack marsupial vent / Of her change – pocket, thinking what to charge / For a used copy of Aeneid VI. / Dustbreath bestirred in the cubicle mouth / I inhaled as she slid my purchase / Into a deckle edged brown paper bag”
5. The “Terrific” Award (for books that aren’t my book of the year but came bloody close and so deserve again the accolade of my favourite word!)
Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and The Museum Of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk were both
A Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry were both
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Books One, Two and Three) were all
HHhH by Laurent Binet and If This Is A Man by Primo Levi were both
Heartburn by Norah Ephron and The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach were both
6. The “I’m Really Sorry But I Thought This Was Bloody Awful” Book Of The Year Award
Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad”. I just didn’t get it! I guess I’m not clever enough. Sorry Jen!
7. The ‘I Love Guy Garvey Of Elbow More Than Anyone Else Does’ Award
With apologies to my mate Steve Smith in Thailand, who fancies himself as a big Elbow fan but can’t be taken seriously as he chose to desert Guy and go live the life of Riley on the beaches of Thailand teaching people to dive (get a proper job you old fart!) and with my apologies to Guy Garvey’s girlfriend, the writer Emma Unsworth, the award for the person who loves Guy Garvey more than anyone else does, goes to – ME!
8. The Album Of The Year
Dead easy – the beautiful, wonderful, gorgeous “Mid Air” by Paul Buchanan – have a quick listen!
9. Gig Of The Year
This is harder – I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times this year but I have to say we were absolutely awe-struck by the magnificent Bruce Springsteen at the Isle of Wight festival – we watched it knee deep in mud and didn’t give a shit! Truly wonderful!
10. Dive Of The Year
But for the runner-up you can choose any of half a dozen or more spectacular dives from that muppet Luiz Suarez!
11. Pie Of The Year
There’s nothing to beat Marks and Spencers! They have the gorgeous Twiggy in their ads, the fabulous sound of Dervla Kirwen doing the voiceover for the food commercials and their pies are great. This year my favourite was the individual Steak and Cornish IPA Ale pies – so fantastic if you gave me a choice between Twiggy, Dervla or the pie, it would be the pie every time!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12. Shite Gig But Chilli Con Carne Of The Year Award
We were unfortunate enough to see Coldplay at the Emirates earlier in the year – bloody awful! I should have known. I saw Coldplay when they were starting out, just after the Yellow album was released – they were at a lovely intimate venue at Brixton Academy – and yet they were bloody awful then as well! However we left the gig early and discovered the Chilli of The Year, washed down with Guinness, at a lovely little pub in Finsbury Park!
13. Comeback Of The Year
This is a close run thing between two of my favourite men of books – the mercurial genius that is Roy Race, scourge of every team on the planet in his role as Roy Of The Rovers – and the mercurial genius that is Detective Inspector John Rebus, scourge of every criminal and low-life in Edinburgh and it’s environs in Iain Rankin’s novels- and as a Glaswegian it’s my job to say disparaging things about the good folk of Edinburgh! But since I thought Iain Rankin’s ‘Standing In Another Man’s Grave’ was brilliant, the winner for me is John Rebus! Plus as he has won it allows me to have a couple of pints and a couple of whiskies to honour his achievement! If Roy Of The Rovers had won I’d have been forced to go down the park, beat all the kids at “3 and you’re in!” and then do at least 100 on keepie-uppie – and I’m much more of a five beers than a five-a-side man these days!
14. And finally, my Book Of The Year
I’ve read so many that have been terrific but one just noses ahead – not by much, but by enough to be the read of the year for me – the beautiful story of Jack and Mabel in The Snow Girl by Eowyn Ivey.
Now I’d said earlier in the year that I would choose a book of the year – and in my own version of the Costa Prize, that I’d buy the winning author a coffee. And I’d like to be true to my word – so if Eowyn Ivey ever reads this and fancies collecting this illustrious prize, I’ll meet her any week day by the Cafe Nero coffee stall in Victoria Station – I’m in the queue most mornings around half past seven – the lattes are on me Eowyn!
And having started with the acerbic wit of Jack Benny on awards, I’d like to end with the acerbic wit of my partner. On the day that the New Year Honours were announced she initially amazed me by saying she’d love to be nominated for an award – and when I expressed astonishment as this didn’t fit with her strong principles and said “Really???????????????????” she replied – “Yeah! So I could then tell them to stick their award up their arse!!!!!!” – That’s my girl!
So if Eowyn Ivey tells me where to put my offer of a free latte as my Book Of The Year, I’ll understand completely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you follow authors on Twitter you may well know about the controversial practice of sock puppeting and the war which has broken out between the thriller writers RJ Ellory and Mark Billingham, among others.
It started when evidence was published that Ellory had indulged in sock puppeting – essentially
he posted glowing reviews of his own books on Amazon using dummy accounts and also used the same dummy accounts to mercilessly slate the work of other thriller writers like Billingham and Stuart McBride.
It’s pretty despicable stuff which Ellory has admitted to. You’d think at that point, having been caught all ends up he’d at least have the decency to apologise! But Mr Ellory, or one of his alter-egos, delivered a kind of half arsed mumble which made it sound as if RJ Ellory had himself been badly advised or influenced by another RJ Ellory (called Dick or something…….) – what a bloody scary place Mr Ellory’s head must be!
If I’m honest I read RJ Ellory book A Quiet Belief In Angels and thought it was weak. Conversely I love Billingham’s books! So I’m maybe biased as far as taking sides in this spat goes – but I doubt many people, if any, are defending Ellory. He comes out of it for me looking for all the world like a mediocre writer who’s had his desperate ego and spiteful jealousies of people more talented than him exposed for all to see. Billingham on the other hand has skilfully managed to tread that fine line between rightful criticism of what’s been uncovered but avoiding taking a pompous, up his own arse, moral high ground about it. In the midst of it all though I can’t help wonder about publishers, agents and others – I’d have thought they must have known or at least suspected and seem remarkably quiet about it all.
Still – Ellory – what an eejit! – to praise his own work and slag others. The phrase “needs to get out more” comes to mind!
On a completely separate topic, a recent comment on my blog from someone called M.Y. Mummy said “When Donkey told Shrek that parfait was the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet he’d clearly not read your blog! In my view The Only Way Is Reading is the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet. I know I’ve never met you and am not related to you in any way
son, but I just had to say your blog is the best and every other blog on the planet is shit!”
Always good to get completely independent, fulsome praise from someone I have never met, not ever, never, never, never……Seems like a good time to stop……………….!
……….It’s been some time since my last blog post – just writing that first sentence makes me feel guilty and I sound like I’m about to seek forgiveness and do penance! I should probably have started “Forgive Me Father, It’s Been Three Weeks Since My Last Blog Post!”
I guess I kind of got out of the habit of blogging – and it’s all the fault of the wonderful and magnificent London Olympics. I pretty much stopped reading as I got immersed in the Olympics night and day – with no books being read I resorted to blogging about the Games but even that became a no-no – it was so good I didn’t want to miss any of it – whether something new or a repeat it just seemed almost a betrayal to concentrate on anything except watching the Games.
It was only when it finished that I realised that I’d read nothing for almost three weeks – and I’d not read because I didn’t want to really. However on realising that, I was a bit worried that I might have lost my reading bug for good. In the week after the Olympics finished I still couldn’t settle to read anything and I began to think I might have lost the habit altogether. But then I started back working and I needed something to do to help pass the time on my fairly lengthy commute into South London every day – and so I took a book. Within the first five minutes I was immersed in the pages of Waiting For Sunrise by William Boyd – so much so that when my train pulled into Tottenham Hale station to change onto the Tube twenty minutes later, I almost missed my stop! From there it’s been “normal service has resumed!” – I finished Waiting For Sunrise, followed it up with Norah Ephron’s Heartburn, for a Book Club I hope to go to tomorrow, and then Chad Harbach’s The Art Of Fielding, which I finished today. Three books in a week and it felt really good – I loved every one of them!
I’ve also got back into combining listening to music on my iPod as I read, and while reading Heartburn mid-week, I was listening to Rod Stewart’s An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down, an album I’ve loved for about 40 years! And it struck me it was a perfect description of the reading habit and what it does for me:-
And did you ride a lift on a steam train
Had the misfortune not to pay your fare
Thrown off the next stop
Thrown in the doorway of a shop
With that coat to keep you from the wind
Oh that old school coat to keep you from the wind
And that ain’t all
Have you had some good friends on the road with ya
Who’d stand by you through thick and thin
Here’s to Kevin and Ben, Susie and Len
And that coat which never lets you down
It never, never, never lets you down
It never, never, never lets you down
That old coat which never lets you down
That old coat which never lets you down
Kept me from the drizzlin’ rain
And oh, kept me from the drizzlin’ rain
In the case of reading you could substitute “Here’s to Boyd and McEwan, Rushdie and Rankin” or a million different author combinations for me, but the pages between the covers of a book will always be “that old coat which never lets me down!”
……….To much publicity, controversy, chagrin and the odd bit of pompous crap, the Booker Prize list for 2012 was announced 2 days ago. After 48 hours I’ve already enjoyed reading some really good articles and blog posts about the Booker longlist for this year – mind you I’ve skimmed a few as well!
So in getting round to writing about it 2 days later, I think I’m pretty slow. No doubt every angle of the Booker list has been covered – but as the American politician and one time Presidential candidate Mo Udall said of a US political debate, “Everything that can be said on this topic has been said – but not everyone has said it yet!!” Well, I’m writing my Booker Longlist twopence worth in exactly that spirit!!!!!
So my challenge to myself is to write something fresh about the Man Booker when everything has already been written – that’s where Donald comes in. For those of you who don’t know, Donald Rumsfeld was US Defence Secretary twice, latterly under George Bush (a time which might aptly have been celebrated by the Specials singing their classic song “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum!). As well as slightly-to-the-right-of-Genghis-Khan political beliefs, Donald Rumsfeld was also well-known for his, what you might call “way with words!”. And I’m using one of those classic Donald speeches to guide you through the Man Booker Longlist for 2012.
The Donald Rumsfeld Guide To The Man Booker Prize 2012
It seems to me that one of Donald’s most famous speeches lends itself perfectly to a personal review of the Man Booker Prize 2012 longlist.
“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Like a knife through butter (and an axe through logic and a sledgehammer through the beauty of the English language) Donald Rumsfeld allows me to strip the Booker list instantly into its three key components – and as I hope to show by the end, this isn’t just some random categorisation! I’m talking about a sociological truth, an indisputable law of book nature, and I think I have the evidence to prove it!
Category 1. Donald’s Known Knowns
These are the books that I know that I know. That’s to say I’ve read them, I know I’ve read them, and knowing I’ve read them means I know whether or not I think it deserved to be on the list – though of course at this stage known knowns can only be compared with other known knowns, as it would be unfair to compare them with known unknowns and impossible to compare them with unknown unknowns! Still with me?!
So my known knowns are:
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. (Great book – really loved it!)
And that’s it I’m afraid! At this stage I haven’t read any of the other books on the list – but I’m glad this one made it. And that’s not me comparing it to known unknowns or unknown unknowns – that’s me comparing it to all the other known knowns I’ve read this year which didn’t make the list!
Category 2. Donald’s (Completely, Or Slightly) Known Unknowns
Now some of these are books where I know the author but don’t know the actual book itself. And the reason is they are famous. So they are known but the book is unknown. So my Completely Known Unknowns are:
Umbrella by Will Self (Mmmmm – Will Self always seems a miserable git really – will wait and see if this makes the shortlist before I decide whether or not to read it – secretly and irrationally I hope it won’t!)
And that’s it I’m afraid! Will Self is certainly well known to me but his books are absolutely unknown to me. I’ve read articles in newspapers and magazines and seen him on TV – not my cup of tea I fear!
On the slightly known unknown front, these are books I know of, by authors I know of, but not specifically books I actually know or authors I actually know! So my Slightly Known Unknowns are:
Skios by Michael Frayn (I saw this mega-cheap in the Oxfam bookshop on Wednesday and decided against buying it – am now kicking myself!!)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (this is in my ‘What Next’ pile and I’ve read great reviews of it elsewhere so it will be getting promoted up the queue!)
Category 3. Donald’s Unknown Unknowns
These are books I’ve never really heard of, by authors I’ve never really heard of – till now!
The Yips by Nicola Barker (I was given her novel Darkmans as a gift but it seems to be one of those books with lead weights in it – I’ve never plucked up the energy to read it – I can barely lift it! If this weighs less I might have a go at it!)
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (apparently part of the story is a man on a restorative walking holiday with “events” unfolding around him – sounds like a perfect book for the evil Kindle so I can read about all that walking while I’m walking the dog!)
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil ( A story about a Mumbai opium den and its users which the review in the Guardian in February likened to an opium-induced dream – and as I am always up for an opium induced dream, I think this will be a definite for me!)
Communion Town by Sam Thompson (which tells the story of a city – possibly New York or London – told from the perspective of 10 different characters – not sure about this one yet!)
Philida by Andre Brink (one of the very few non-British authors on this year’s list with a story about a slave in South Africa in the 1830′s – I can find no real reviews of it but something about it sounds good – another one I think I’ll read myself!)
The Garden Of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (another non-British author and perhaps one I should have heard of as a previous book of his was nominated for the Booker in 2007 – but I didn’t pay as much attention to the Booker back then!)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (The review I read of this makes it sound like an intriguing possible! It’s about a middle class family, holidaying in France, who find a woman swimming in their pool. She stays with them and the novel charts what happens from there! However, in addition to the review, the book also apparently has an introduction by Tom McCarthy. I recently read and absolutely loved his novel “C” – so if Tom McCarthy likes it then this moves from an intriguing possible to a dead cert for me!)
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (It’s a great title – but I’m wary of some novels with great titles as in my experience the odds are 50:50-ish that the inside won’t live up to the promise of the great title! And to provide further evidence to support my 50:50 notion a review of this book a few days ago in The Independent compared it to the work of David Mitchell and Jennifer Egan – for me I loved Mitchell’s One Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and thought Jennifer Egan’s Welcome To The Goon Squad was awful! 50:50!!! I’ll stay in two minds about this for a while!)
The consequence of all this is that knowing so few of the books on the shortlist has been a blow to my intellectual ego – in fact my “fiction” intelligence is feeling a bit like poor old Donald Rumsfeld! I can’t help asking myself how come I read so much, write a fair bit now about reading, read a fair bit about what other people write about what they are reading and I’ve still read only one of the Booker short list and even worse haven’t heard of most of them!!!!!!
But Donald has the answer – f0r I think I can prove that the unknown unknown syndrome is pretty common among us, the reading public. And here’s my evidence.
I looked this morning at an on-line poll in The Telegraph “Books” section asking who we fiction fans think will win the Booker for 2012 – and the leader, by a country mile, is Hilary Mantel! Now is that because most of the respondents could say all twelve books were known knowns and they think Hilary’s is the best?! Or is it because they’d only heard of one or two and, like me, the rest were unknown unknowns to them!
Need further proof? Well, lo and behold, look at the next three places in the poll – Micheal Frayn, followed by Rachel Joyce and Will Self – my known unknowns. And finally, bumping along the bottom, pretty much evenly, are all those unknown unknowns.
So it’s proven – it would seem that Donald Rumsfeld holds the key to understanding the Booker and the book reading public after all!!!
And who will win? The bookies favourite is of course Hilary Mantel (and why wouldn’t she be – if she’s the only bloody known known for most of us avid readers and book bloggers, then there’s no chance the bookies have heard of any of the others either!!!)
But to be sure, before you part with your money by betting unwisely, I’d like to go back to Donald Rumsfeld for the answer to the question of who will win! As Donald also one said:
“If I know the answer I’ll tell you the answer. If I don’t, I’ll just respond cleverly!”.
So that tells you two things – I’ve no idea who will win and neither does everyone else – but my clever response money is on a book from the unknown unknown list – and that will allow the final part of Donald Rumsfeld’s Guide to the Man Booker Prize to be used:
“I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.”
That my friends tells you the winner will be Nicola Barker – at the moment that doesn’t look obvious because it’s the future, but when it’s the past, you’ll look back, read this post and think – well I never. Good old Donald Rumsfeld! Now why the hell didn’t I predict that too!!!!!!!
So said George Burns! To be fair to old George Burns, when he was talking about having made it if you reach one hundred, he was referring to surviving life to reach the age of 100!. I’m using it to refer to having survived blogging to reach 100 posts on my blog! For this is indeed numero one hundred!
As I’m a bit OCD to say the least, I do like numbers, number patterns and numerical milestones and they often make me reflect. Today is no different. When I started writing, I did it at a time when I’d just taken voluntary redundancy at work and had a lot of time on my hands. I’d always wanted to write and this seemed safer than trying to write a novel – so I began blogging to feed that desire to write while at the same time kill off the appetite for writing a novel. And I’ve enjoyed it – it’s done as I’d hoped and fed my inkling to write but it didn’t do the second part – instead it whetted my appetite for having a go at a novel. I’ve started my novel – 7 chapters in 9 months!! It’s driving me mad but somehow I’m enjoying that too!
Anyway to mark 100 posts I thought I’d just write down a series of random, unconnected, and quite possibly utterly pointless things about blogging, books, and blogging about books! So here are my one hundred completely and utterly random thoughts!
1. Nothing is more annoying than a computer crash when you’ve written three quarters of a post and not saved the draft as you go along!
2. You quickly become addicted to stats – even stats that would seem derisory and pathetic to more experienced bloggers. You never forgot the joy of celebrating 10 visits in the same day! 10 visits! 10! Party time!
3. If you are not IT literate, the blog forums are no use to you as they are full of people who were born in a computer, live in a computer and speak computer speak!
4. Who the hell writes all the spam I get? I mean who has the time for that! I’m unemployed for christ’s sake and even I don’t have time for that!
5. There are more bloggers writing about books than I ever imagined. I stumbled across a WordPress book bloggers directory the other day and there were hundreds listed!
6. WordPress isn’t “Word” but I wish it was, as I’d be able to get it to behave a bit more and do what I want!
7. You need to remember to “save draft” frequently!
8. Blogging is addictive! (I hope our bloody government don’t find out though because no doubt those eejits would ban it if they knew!)
9. Google’s Blogger platform and WordPress must have fallen out at some point – maybe over a woman they both loved or something – for they really don’t seem to like each other! As a WordPress user, leaving comments on blogs using Blogger makes you feel a bit seedy, squalid and not to be trusted!
10. There seems to be a kind of book blogging ‘Royal Family’ who’ve got gazillions of followers – including me, (that’s me follower, not me Royal Family blogger!). To be fair to the Royal Family – they are really good at it!!
11. I don’t think I’ll ever be in the book Book Blogging Royal Family!
12. Writing posts while the sun shines through the window is much better than when the rain is battering off the window – alas about 95% of my hundred posts have been written with the rain battering off the window! Still, I enjoyed the other five!
13. Book blogging isn’t good for the dog – I read blogs while walking him and so he’s frequently lost or ignored!
14. Blogging has brought me a different class of junk e-mail – I now get more offers of help to increase my ‘traffic’ than I get offers to help increase the size of my penis!
15. Blog posts ALWAYS take longer to write than you think they will! I’m already wishing I’d called this 15 Completely and Utterly Random Thoughts About Blogging’ instead!
16. There seem to be a lot more women blogging about books than men!
17. I write mainly about books and litereature. Yet the most popular posts I wrote by far were about music! I’ve only ever written 3, but they were the three most popular by miles! Since then I’ve written no others about music even though they might well attract the audience that currently I haven’t got! Which tells you two things – either I’m not very bright or I’m not that arsed about an audience! (I think it’s the former but I wish it was the latter!)
18. Lots of book bloggers, especially the book blogging Royal Family, seem to be appreciated by authors, booksellers or publishers. As a result some get sent lots of free books and invites to events by publishers. It’s a world I didn’t know existed till I started this!
19. Several bloggers about books also seem to be into knitting!?!?!
20. It really does take your reading habits to places you wouldn’t otherwise have gone and lots of those places are great.
21. Some of those places are crap though!
22. Book bloogers seem to be the most polite people in the world. Nobody ever really slates a book or disagrees with another blogger in the comments. Sometimes I think I’d like to see someone write “This book is shite!” or “Don’t talk such absolute diarrohea!”. Of course I couldn’t do that myself – I’m too polite!
23. Blogging has left me with a “what to read next list” that is so long I might have to sell my house to fund it!
24. Book blogging has taught me a bit of humility. I thought I was pretty well read till I found the blogging community. Then I realise I’m relatively “Janet and John” in my reading experience compared to people like Simon at one of my favourite blogs Stuck In A Book! If he re-named his blog to “Born In A Book”, I’d believe him!
25. I now know that Virago and Persephone aren’t minor characters in Greek mythology but are instead much loved and desired book publishers who are very “in with lots of book bloggers!
26. There are a lot of people out there reading romantic fiction so the world should be all right really.
27. The person who writes the tweets for Waterstones Oxford St is clever, imaginative and very funny!
28. I’ve tried the books again and read the blogs but I still have a question – Science Fiction – what’s that all about?!
29. If there was a pin-up poster girl of book bloggers at the moment I reckon it would be Hilary Mantel (I’ve no idea what she looks like but her books are pretty wonderful!)
30. Bloggers are much more likely to review books that me, a lover of reading, will like. For example the reviews of Song Of Achilles in The Daily Telegraph and The New York Times, mocked it and rubbished it. Every blog review I read said “wonderful!” in 10 feet high letters. I read it. Fantastic. The bloggers are nearly always right for me!
31. Have I mentioned that blog posts always take longer than you anticipate. God how I wish I’d called this 31 Completely and Utterly Random Thoughts About Blogging’ instead!
32. I’d like to read other book blogs by people just starting blogging like myself. But it is impossible to find them by any means other than luck!
33. Although bloggers are polite about books and to each other, they are happy to let rip and vent their spleen at the rest of the planet – especially the BBC for some reason!
34. I can’t make up my mind whether blogging really has got me reading more – I often think I don’t blog enough book reviews because I don’t read enough, so maybe I should stop blogging so I can read more and have more books to blog about, but then that would defeat the purpose because I wouldn’t be blogging anyway, although of course that isn’t really the purpose for reading, but if I stop blogging I’ll miss it because I enjoy it………and so on and on! For someone who gets dizzy easily I still seem to spend a lot of my time going round in circles!
35. I suspect some book bloggers may have learned the secret of time travel. How else can Book Snob read as fast as she does or how else can dovegreyreader fit into one week what I couldn’t fit into a month!
36. If Ian Rankin didn’t spend time tweeting or listening to music I reckon he could write two Rebus novels a year! get with the beat Ian for god’s sake!!!
37. I’ve never been to a book / literature festival but I now have several on my “must see” list!
38. I’m too ugly for a personal photograph as my Gravatar image!
39. My family think blogging is a nonsense! Sometimes I think they might be right!
40. Blogging has taught me that most of the people on planet Earth will write a novel at some point!
41. Football and sport might be popular, but blogging about books on football and sport seems almost non-existent. Writing posts about football books isn’t popular either, going by the stats I got when I tried it!
42. Did I mention that allocating time to a blog post is far from an exact science?! I’m already wishing I had called this 42 Completely and Utterly Random Thoughts About Blogging’ instead!
43. In book blogging world Elizabeth Taylor is first and foremost a much-loved early 20th century author. Everywhere else of course she’s first and foremost that much-married, beautiful ex of Richard Burton’s and actress mate of Mickey Rooney’s! Book blogging really is a different world!
44. Book blog posts are seldom time limited and yet I don’t think the older posts are ever read. So it seems old blog posts don’t die but just fade away. Sad, really!
45. I’m going to cheat in future when I’m unsure what to write about and simply recycle old posts under a new name – no one will ever know and I’ll have saved those older posts from a life of gently going grey in my archive, watching life go by while they play sudoku or something!
46. Having reached 100 posts with visit numbers that even the dog thinks are funny, makes me realise that I might often be talking and writing to myself in this blog! So with that and starting work again next month, I may not have the time or inclination to continue blogging much longer.
47. Then again, I like talking to myself! I find myself, clever, erudite, witty and I always find myself agreeing with what I’ve written!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
48. In my opinion, the best written book blogs that I read are Gaskella, Book Snob and Word By Word – someday, if I keep going, I’d like my blog to grow up and be like theirs!
49. I like writing about books – not as much as I like reading books – but it’s close and getting closer!
50. Blog posts should be just the right length. Posts that are too long are to be avoided at all costs!!! So I shall make this post 51 Completely and Utterly Random Thoughts About Blogging’ instead!
51. Stopping at 51 was nothing to do with the fact that getting to one hundred was going to be near bloody impossible and would have taken another three or four days! Honest!
……….I’ve spent the early part of the week commuting into the city – not the norm for me – and as a result I’ll be starting a new job at the end of next month. While going in and out on the train and the Tube this week, I’ve been reading ‘The Song Of Achilles’ by Madeleine Miller (it’s brilliant by the way!).
Normally I go to work by car and so my early mornings are spent with the Today Programme on Radio 4 – and have been for about 10 years! But from August I’m going to be swopping the car for the commute into London to work – and among the things I’m most looking forward to are reading every day on the way in and the way back, making homeward bound detours to Waterstones in Oxford Street or to Foyles at Charing Cross or to the many independent bookshops all over the city, and I’m looking forward to having the chance to go to author talks in the early evenings in venues across the city.
For the last few days I’ve been struck by just how many people read while commuting – the trains and tubes are full of people with their nose in a book or a Kindle! Among the books I saw were Chad Harbach’s “The Art Of Fielding” (in my TBR pile), Ian McEwan’s “Saturday” (liked it but not the best of his stuff!), William Boyd’s “Restless” (another in my TBR pile), Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” (not my thing really!) and Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad” (I didn’t like this at all though I know others who loved it). Obviously I’ve no idea what those who had Kindle’s were reading – although I have to admit that each time I saw someone with a Kindle my brain pondered “Do they look like they are reading Fifty Shades????????!’. Bizarre I know – even more bizarre was I thought some of them were – prejudice in overdrive I fear!!!!
My favourite though was the woman I saw at Liverpool Street still reading, book in front of her face, weaving from the train platform, across the station concourse and down onto the Central Line – she put her book down only to swipe her Oyster card – apart from that she was on a kind of automatic pilot and it was up to everyone else at rush hour to swerve and weave out of her way! I had to admire her sense of direction, her disregard for the rest of the commuting world and above all her obvious passion and enjoyment of her book! (Couldn’t see what it was – might she have been a Fifty Shades reader?!?!?!)
I’m looking forward to the commute by train and tube – although I’ll have hassles like everyone else, it’ll allow me to use the journey time to indulge in something I love – reading more and more books! At the moment, the car journeys are ok when you’re moving – but let’s be honest around the M25 and London ‘traffic’ and ‘moving’ are almost contradictory terms!!! Once I’m stationary, it always seems like such an awful waste of precious time!
However, while I won’t miss the traffic jams, I’ll miss the Today programme on Radio 4 – or at least large parts of it (I’ll still listen in over hurried breakfast and getting dressed if I can!). It’s one of the things that I think define me as “getting older” – my family prefer Christian O’Connell on Absolute Radio in the mornings – and I admit any time I listen in I think he’s hilarious. Twenty years ago he’d have been my morning radio choice without a doubt – but now I’m fifty and I’ve got grey hair and my knees creak, I feel at home with Radio 4! (Sorry to any fellow R4 listeners who are offended by the implication that we’re mostly getting on in years!).
But nothing beats listening to the Today programme to start the day – I look forward to John Humphries baiting and devouring politicians and their egos for his breakfast, I could listen to Sarah Montague’s fabulous voice reading the telephone directory aloud, I love the spark and energy of Evan Davies, the measured deep tones of Justin Webb, and above all I think James Naughtie is wonderful – whether it’s politics or the arts or just the weather, he’s bright, intelligent, engaging and always sounds like he’s enjoying whatever he’s doing! If he and Alex Salmond were put in charge of the Scotland football team, we might win the World Cup!
Though I’ll miss them, I now have more time than ever to spend reading. Which is just as well, as my To Be Read shelf has never been longer (in fact it’s no longer a shelf – it’s now more like two and a half shelves!) and my What Next list would use up every penny I earn if I was to buy everything on it! As my start date is still about a month away I don’t know what will be my first book to mark my new commute – if anyone has a suggestion for something apt or just plain fantastic, let me know!
While I can predict I’ll read more than ever, I’m certain that for as long as my commuting goes on, I don’t think you’ll ever see me doing this!
………A couple of weeks ago, the chance discovery that Egmont Publishing are going to issue new Roy Of The Rovers stories through iBooks led me to reminiscing and pondering the link between football and books, the two things I love most (after my beautiful family and the dog of course!)
Now there may be some who think football and literature are incompatible – mutually exclusive even! I disagree. It’s true that the link between good fiction and football is almost non-existent, but I’d suggest Nick Hornby’s brilliant Fever Pitch is enough to prevent a footballing fiction whitewash!
But in non-fiction I can think of several really good books about football I’ve read ( even though I’d have to admit most footballer biographies are rubbish with only the odd exception here and there – in particular, hang your head in shame Graeme Souness and take a bow Roy Keane!)
I’d reckon the audience for a series of full length book reviews of football non-fiction is pretty narrow (and the stats for my blog show I get precious few visits at the best of times!!) So I’m keen to avoid alienating any potential visitor to these pages with weeks of posts about footballing gems like ‘The History of Greenock Morton FC” or “Jack Charlton’s American World Cup Diary”!!!!!!! (Both great reads though – if you are anorak-ish about football and like that sort of thing!)
So as I mentioned in that post about Roy Of The Rovers, I decided to compile a short summary review of the best footballing non-fiction books I’ve read. Here it is then!
TheOnlyWayIsReading Guide To 10 Great Non-Fiction Football Books
Without any doubt the best book by a footballer I’ve ever read. Garry Nelson was a very good footballer, without ever reaching what we might call superstar status. However he played up front for Charlton at a time when they were a good side but perhaps at a time before the potential income for footballers reached the stratospheric proportions of today. His book is a warts-and-all look at the life of the football professional – it comes across as honest and humourous and gives it a much more ordinary, understandable feel. It’s not about fast cars and the jet set lifestyle, it’s about training and injuries and the anxieties of wondering whether or not you’ll make the team and so on. It’s also shot through with a real sadness and uncertainty about the future for it tells the story of what is likely to be Nelson’s last year as a pro before he retires.
It was followed up with an equally good sequel, ‘Left Foot In The Grave’ which picks up the story 18 months later when Garry Nelson takes the thankless and almost impossible task of being player-coach at Torquay United – at that point the bottom club in the whole of the Football League. The two books were bestsellers, and rightly so, for they are a wonderful look at the reality of being a footballer and/or a manager at what you might call the “coal face” of the game – a million miles from the world of Manchester United or Liverpool, but in many ways the heart of the game itself!
Joe McGinniss was a bit of a rarity himself, for he was an American writer and journalist with a deep love and passion for football. On the back of the triumphant hosting of the World Cup in the USA in 94, McGinniss became friends with one of the stars of that American team from 94, Alexei Lalas. Lalas himself had attracted the attention of European club sides because of his displays as a rugged but flamboyant centre-back and had signed for Padua to play in Italy’s Serie A, at that time arguably the best league in the world. McGinniss became intrigued by the story of the team from Castel di Sangro. The small village team in Southern Italy had risen from the lowest levels of amateur football to the unbelievable height of Serie B – one rung on the ladder off playing against some of the greatest players in the world like Maldini, Baresi and Roberto Baggio!
McGinniss spent the year living in the village and charting the exploits of the team and it’s players, administrators, managers and fervent supporters throughout that season at the dizzying heights of Serie B. The book captures the passion and the madness of football brilliantly. Equally when events take a tragic turn, the book is moving and warm and demonstrates the dignity of the people at a time of unimaginable sadness. Throughout, it’s a delight to read. This might not be the best book ever written about football, though in my view it’s up there in the top ten of course, but it’s without doubt the most emotional and romantic story you’ll ever read about football!
The 1970 Brazilians were perhaps the most brilliant football team ever. Only now are we debating whether or not the current Spanish team may be as good and possibly better – I think the Spanish may well be the best team ever – collectively – but for me nothing will take the place in my heart of the names of Pele, Rivelino, Gerson, Tostao, Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo, Jairzhino. They won that place in my heart for two reasons – firstly the Mexico World Cup they took by storm was the first time I ever saw colour TV and secondly they played football like I’d never seen it played before! It was powerful, beautiful, graceful and above all joyous. Their fourth goal in the 1970 final will forever by my favourite goal of all time. There’s a flow to it that’s almost balletic!
Garry Jenkins set out in the mid 1990′s to trace every member of that 1970 team and to reminisce and reflect on the team, their role in it, what they’d achieved and what had happened to them since. The journey flows from a Chapter about Pele, interviewed in his then role as Minister for Sport in the Brazilian Government to Felix the eccentric Brazilian goalkeeper, interviewed in the garage where he worked as a mechanic. Through their recollections and opinions you get a strong sense of their togetherness as a group and above all of their confidence in themselves and each other – this was a team of great players and they knew it!
The book is a wonderful journey and more than does justice to the skill and beauty of the 1970 team in yellow and blue that were to change the world of football for ever!
When you live in Scotland, most people make a choice between Rangers and Celtic – even though you may fervently support your local team – as I do with Greenock Morton – there’s still a choice to be made between the two Glasgow Giants! When I went to live in Spain in the mid-eighties I discovered that a similar thing happens there – even though you might support your local team (mine was Tenerife, then in Segunda B but promoted to La Primera the year I left Spain), most people make a choice between Barcelona and Real Madrid. For me the choice was never in doubt – the Catalan history, the role of the club as an anti-Franco force during the Civil War and then under Franco’s rule, and the flamboyance of their players through the years meant that I was instantly attracted to Barcelona and my love of them has never wavered.
Jimmy Burns’ books about football are sharp, incisive and illuminating. I loved his biography of Maradona, but above that is his history of Barca. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book so aptly subtitled – “…a people’s passion” and that is exactly what shines through in this book. The book traces the history, the clubs struggles particularly during the Franco years, and some of the great players that graced the Camp Nou down the years and above all, it looks at what the club means to the people who live in Barcelona, who support the team and what the club means to the city itself. If you have any interest in Barca, it’s a wonderful read!
My partner is from Liverpool and, unfortunately she and all of her family are all mad-keen Liverpool fans – the malaise has spread to my daughter much to my horror and dismay. The exception however is my partner’s father – he’s a blue, and a passionate one. Whenever we’re together we talk three things – politics, football in general and Everton in particular! I bought this book purely on the strength of it being about an Everton player – and uncovered a gem of a book!
Stewart Imlach was a Scotsman who played for Everton in the 50′s and his son Gary tells his father’s story which was so typical of other working class men at that time, who entered the world of professional football before the pots of gold were placed at the ends of rainbows by people like Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour.
It’s a wonderful and moving tribute to his father, detailing the joys, challenges and uncertainties of life as a footballer, and for a footballers family, in those years after the war. The cavalier attitude of clubs towards their players is difficult to comprehend when we read it today with player-power at its height. The slave-like conditions of contract they faced makes you realise that, for all the talk now of the obscene salaries earned by some top players, the moves to gain freedom of contract and the abolition of the maximum wage in football were huge victories for football and for the people who played it and watched it, for no more was the game a mechanism for lining the pockets of rich men exploiting the players and the people who paid to watch them!
This makes it sound like a revolutionary manifesto – it isn’t – Gary Imlach tells his fathers’ story with honesty but it’s never overly sentimental. What’s great about this book is that it never loses sight of the fact that at the time his father was still luckier than most working class people. Stewart Imlach comes across as a hard-working, decent, thoughtful man – and according to my partners Dad, who remembers him with huge affection, he was a bloody good footballer too!
Aristotle said “There was never a genius, without a tincture of madness!”. While ‘madness’ might be overstating it a bit, what comes across in Barend and Dorp’s book about the mercurial and magnificent Johann Cruyff are all the unusual and slightly different parts of his personality – I guess it’s the price to pay for having the gift that Cruff had.
The book is a slightly unusual read as it was put together from a huge number of interviews and articles which Barend and Van Dorp had conducted with Cruyff over a period of 23 years!!!! The book came out in Holland to mark the occasion of Cruyff’s fiftieth birthday. He is of course such a huge figure in Dutch football that there were several books which came out to mark the occasion – this was the only one that had Cruyff’s blessing and indeed he wrote the foreward himself. With his involvement and approval you’d understandbly be forgiven for thinking that this will be one of those white-washed football biographies that are trotted out continually – but it isn’t. Some of the articles are incisive, the questioning is sharp and to the point, and they draw out Cruyff, faults and all. I loved this book. I loved Cruyff. I’d watched enthralled as a kid when he lit up football, first with Ajax, then the Dutch team in 1974, and then at Barca. I was lucky enough to live in Spain at the same time as Cruyff was developing the “golden era” at Barca in his role as manager – it was a joy to watch him play, a joy to watch the team he managed and a joy to read this book!
7. Garrincha – The Triumph And Tragedy Of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero by Ruy Castro
If Aristotles words about genius and madness could be argued to apply to Cruyff, there’s no doubt at all that they could be applied to Garrincha. This is perhaps the most tragic and sad of all the football books I’ve read so far. The similarity of the talents shown by Garrincha and Pele is in sharp contrast to the lives they led – Pele the statesman-like great footballer, revered in his country and around the world, Garrincha, drunk and virtually penniless, who died tragically at 49.
The book mixes together the ingredients that made Garrincha such an unlikely but wonderful footballer along with the ingredients in his personality that caused him to lead a life outside the game that seemed almost hell-bent on self – destruction. It never over-romanticises Garrincha and yet it’s clear that for all his faults, everyone who came into contact with him liked him and admired him. As I read it, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between Garrincha and Paul Gascoigne. There’s something about both of their cavalier, unpredicable, approaches on the pitch that spills over into their lives. Reading Garrincha’s story you get the sense of a man whose personality on the pitch made him the genius he was as a footballer but that same personality also made him a wild and tortured soul as a man. It’s a desperately sad story, beautifully and loving told by Ruy Castro and by everyone who seems to have come under Garrincha’s spell.
This book is hilariously funny. It’s a spoof by the journalist, Colin Ward, who wrote a series of outrageous letters to footballers and football managers and then collected those letters and their replies in this wonderful book! The letters probe at their motives, their attitudes, their wealth and in some cases, their morals! What’s great about them is that they are sharp and clever and very witty and often their humour is enhanced by replies from the great and the good of the footballing world who are split into different camps – those who are outraged and indignant, those who are disinterested and send the blandest of replies, and those who either see through the ruse or rise to the challenge and respond with humourous letters of their own! My personal favourites were his correspondence with Sir Alex, Howard Wilkinson, and his wonderful spats with the then FA Chief exec Graham Kelly!
A work of genius!
Dutch football has become a byword for technique, passing and movement, skill, and invention. Yet it wasn’t always this way. “Total Football” as it was known was born in the 60′s, driven by Rinus Michels in particular and was brought to the worlds attention by the Cruyff – inspired Ajax and Dutch teams of the mid to late 1970′s. The book charts not only some of the history of Dutch football but also how the idea of Dutch football developed and took shape over a number of years. In some ways it’s a book about Holland and the Dutch and from there how that’s influenced, and been influenced by, Dutch football. And of course, along the way there’s a roll call of the great and the good of Dutch football – all players I’ve loved and admired, Cruyff himself, Johann Neeskens (my favourite player as a boy!), Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullitt, Johnny Rep, Robbie Resenbrink, Wim Van Hanegem, Ruud Krol …..I could go on and on but suffice to say this was a pleasure to read about one of my favourite things in the world!
Eric. The one and only Eric.
There have been several books about him and I think I’ve read all of them. But this is the one I enjoyed most. It’s a comprehensive narrative in terms of its breadth and detail about Eric’s career, especially with Manchester United. It’s not only well researched on the facts, it’s been well-researched into Eric’s relationships and attitudes, into what others thought of Eric’s contribution and into Eric’s impact, again particularly at United. It recounts the turbulent and the difficult times for Eric and those of us who took him to our hearts, especially the incident and aftermath at Crystal Palace. It doesn’t spare Eric in its laying out of the facts around this and other incidents, but thankfully it avoids the moralising and sanctimonious nonsense that infects some of the other books about Eric.
It’s a book that does justice to a legend in every sense. You know a player is special when fans still songs in praise of him – and it’s 15 years since Eric left Man Utd! – but to this day you won’t get through a Utd game without hearing “”Ooh Ah Cantona” or “The Twelve Days Of Eric”!! For me a book is special when I re-read it – and although I admit to quite a large helping of bias when it comes to anything Eric, I’ve re-read this several times and will read it again no doubt!
I love football and I love books about football – sadly there aren’t that many good ones. But there are some, whether histories of teams, biographies of the well-known and the not-so-well known, and books that celebrate and understand what makes the game or a player that bit special. And none are for me more special than Eric, so no football book is more special for me than Rob Wightman’s straightforward honest assessment of a genius! The last word goes to Rob Wightman and by implication of course it goes to Eric – why wouldn’t it!!!!
“And then there was Cantona.
Quite simply he was the magic ingredient,
the extra element that transformed a good team into a brilliant one…….”
After years of waiting, the new Carlos Ruiz Zafon novel is in my possession and now I want everything to stop, for time to stand still and for the world to just allow me to read non-stop until I get to the end of the next journey through Barcelona and the Cemetry Of Forgotten Books!
There are only a handful of novelists who can generate this level of anticipation for me about their books being published, and perhaps the books of Carlos Ruiz Zafon are those I most anticipate – well it would be a toss up between him, Khaled Hosseini, Louis de Bernieres and Orhan Pamuk at any rate!
I first entered the magical world of Sempere and Sons bookshop, and the Cemetery Of Forgotten Books, when I read Shadow Of The Wind – by the time I got to it, it was I think being pushed through the Richard and Judy book club thing, as well as promoted high and handsome in every bookshop and supermarket in the land! I loved Shadow – loved, loved, loved, loved, LOVED it! One of my favourite books ever.
I then had to wait an excruciating 4 years for the next book, The Angels Game. I read it with joy, wonder, and tears streaming down my face in the sunshine of Crete after the publication timed perfectly with a family holiday! It was fantastic. Every bit as good as Shadow in my opinion!
Three years later, comes the third instalment! Although I’ve been able to sate my appetite a little with a couple of his books for young adults, The Midnight Palace and The Prince Of Mist (both of which I thoroughly enjoyed), it’s still been a long wait for the next adventure in the Cemetery Of Forgotten Books!
It’s a book that I simply couldn’t resist any longer. It came out a few weeks ago but I steeled myself and avoided getting a copy ordered until some other stuff I had on the go was all finished. Now it is (well it’s actually not all finished but I couldn’t wait any longer!!!!!!!!!!). My copy finally arrived in my hands today and now I want to stop the world, get off and spend my next 48 hours or so in Barcelona and in the company of Daniel Sempere!
So I’m off to do just that! See you whenever I resurface!