Geelong Advertiser, Tuesday 4 December 2007, p. 13.
It is the season of publishers’ catalogues, booksellers promotions, book launches and serendipitous strolls around the bookshops of Geelong and Melbourne trying to turn up something for presents, something for reading and sometimes just something to savour, to fondle, to smell and to hold in your hands and marvel at the wonder of a new book. Though we are bombarded by electronic games and gizmos, electronic books and talking books, there is nothing still to compare with a freshly printed book just out of the wrapper, whether it arrives by air or is picked from the box. It is a sensual, visual and anticipatory pleasure like no other.
Local authors and editors are doing well this year. My colleague Simon Townley’s Year of the Cat is already going gangbusters with its brilliant evocation of the football club’s stellar season. Each game is lovingly recounted by a different writer, united only in their support for the local heroes. Tom Spurling and Geoff Peel have taken up another great idea by bringing together a selection of writing on Geelong from Matthew Flinders and Rudyard Kipling to Gideon Haigh and Joshua Wright. Their collection The View from Flinders Peak will be a marvellous resource for schools but it is a great read with its huge variety of offerings. I have to admit that my colleague Marnie Haig-Muir and I have a piece in it too, so forgive the self-promotion. We also launched The Boys on Newtown Hill: A History of St Joseph’s College, Geelong last month.
John Harms is a Geelong football club supporter and is also represented in the Spurling and Peel volume, but his great work for the year is the The Footy Almanac 2007: The AFL season one game at a time, edited and organised with another great grass-roots football writer Paul Daffey. The publishing company set up to produce this book is called Malarkey Publications and its logo is an irresistible shot of the thighs of the great number 5 for the Cats. Blurbs collected from writers praising a new book are not always a sure guide to the value of its contents, but Garrie Hutchinson’s claim that ‘the reports are so interesting you might want to read about West Coast playing Fremantle’ rings true. Anyone with an interest in Geelong and its people, not just the football club, will read and savour John Harms’ contributions for he understands us like few others.
My crime and thrillers reading this year has already been stimulated by Ian Rankin’s final (?) Rebus novel Exit Music, which takes the great Edinburgh detective into retirement. You get the feeling that there is more to come, however, and the betting is that Rebus’s side-kick Siobhan Clarke might become the focus of future encounters with the seedy underbelly of Scotland’s capital city. Val McDermid is back on form with Beneath the Bleeding, involving profiler Tony Hill and his police colleague Carol Jordan, though my wife found suspending her disbelief hard with this one. I have been holding off reading the latest Robert Harris novel Ghost, about the ghost writer of the biography of a former prime minister, in the hope that I can keep it until the Christmas break, but my resolution is weak where books are concerned.
And finally there are a couple of books about the round ball code which I am savouring. From Sheffield with Love by Brendan Murphy celebrates the history of the world’s oldest football club, preceding the Melbourne and Geelong footy clubs by a year or two. And there is a paperback edition of David Goldblatt’s mammoth account of world football, The Ball is Round, to keep anyone who wants to understand the game and the David Beckham phenomenon going until well into 2008.