Freedom and adventure without the accompanying danger.

 

I was aiming to publish my next piece within the week following the qualifying final loss to Richmond last year. The whole premise being that it snap me out of my being completely gutted about getting doughnuts in the third Perth Reclink Community Cup match (I don’t count the two effective hit-outs as legitimate possessions, plus we lost…again), and finding the ultimate solace in a box of fried chicken brought home by my (much) better half following the defeat. History will show that karma played its part in this kindest of gestures and her family were able to rejoice in a way not done so since 1980. History will also show that I never finished this piece. I will, but for now here’s something else, albeit more of a list.

 

 

Perth Reclink Community Cup match, 2017 at Fremantle Oval. Yours truly on the far left (where else?) on his way to a total of zero kicks, zero marks, zero handballs, two hit outs.

 

 

I have Titus O’Reily to thank for this. Not so long ago he spoke with author Ben Collins who has revised and updated his biography of Norm Smith, The Red Fox. You can find it here – https://www.titusoreily.com/podcast/variety-hour-norm-smith. This book, which I first read in mid/late 2016, sparked an addiction which only came to a (semi) halt when, in a moment of insanity, I decided to undertake part-time postgrad study to go with my part-time work and full-time parenting, and radio work, and dj work. Still it’s good to be busy. Something about the devil finding work for….I forget how the rest of it goes.

 

 

I have two and a half year old son and when he sleeps during the day, I read. For anyone in this position, this is your time for respite. Don’t waste it on chores. Find whatever source of pleasure you can and bask in it for the next couple of hours because that is all you are going to get. Don’t take that the wrong way. I love the boy to bits.

 

I began with a first edition of Red Fox by Ben Collins and haven’t looked back. I’ll freely admit I was one of those who, during my uni days (that’s a lie – it continued well past graduation, my first and current marriage and now fatherhood), filled my shelves with books in an effort to impress more than anything else. Still, glad to make good on my promise to pull my finger out and finally read some of them. Thank goodness they never made it to the shredders. Something the late ABC journalist and broadcaster Mark Colvin said in Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son really resonated with me. A voracious reader himself, Colvin said that the attraction to reading was not so much escapism but exploration. Freedom and adventure without the accompanying danger. I couldn’t agree more. The relative comfort and safety of the reading room is far from the worst place to explore Celine’s take on the French battlefield during the First World War, the life and times of Maya Angelou and Malcolm X, the Spanish Civil War from the point of view of George Orwell. The downward spiral of the career of one Wilson Pickett is also recommended exploring at a safe distance.

 

 

Here’s what I read, in order:

 

 

Red Fox by Ben Collins – The one that got the ball rolling. I’d been meaning to read this for a few years. I’ll admit my class prejudice (don’t confuse it with envy, folks) was the driving factor. Was the sacking of one of the greatest coaches of all time really down to a clique of Melbourne Grammar educated used car salesman/Liberal Party aspirants who, to paraphrase Charles Foster Kane thought it would be “fun to run a football club” and didn’t like the cut of the jib of the working class coach from Northcote who, in their eyes, thought he was bigger than the club (and its school ties)? Read and find out.

 

The Origins of the Second World War by AJP Taylor – penned by UK historians’ greatest shit-stirrer.

 

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline – ok, I’m a Doors fan. Yes, just like everyone else who has ever read this book. Unless I wasn’t paying attention, Céline’s fascist leanings didn’t really stand out too much, which is hardly a bad thing. That aside, this one simply lit my brain on fire.

 

Beale Street Dynasty by Preston Lauterbach – he also wrote a great book on the Chitlin Circuit.

 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole – I’m surely the last person on earth to have read this. It takes a lot for any book to make me laugh out loud unprompted but this one got me. You hate the main character at the start but you’ll find yourself barracking before you know it.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 

Playing God  by Garry Linnell – I first read this when it was first published and, at the time, would have fallen into the category of Geelong fans who’d be apologists for Gary Ablett Snr. When they’re older and wiser, if indeed that’s possible as they’re a funny lot,  and make the final leap of following the game before any one club or player then it’s time for a re-read.

 

Fermin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage – a tale of hilarity, tragedy and hope told from the perspective of a rat living in a rundown bookstore in 1960s pre-gentrification Boston.

 

Football Ltd by Garry Linnell – essential reading but I often wonder how much better this book would have been had it been written after the demise of Fitzroy. Then again, I wonder how much better things would be without the demise of Fitzroy.

 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon

 

Black and Proud: The Story of an Iconic AFL Photo by Gary Osmond and Matthew Klugman – before this incident occurred 25 years ago the most shameful act at Victoria Park was Collingwood winning games of football. My only hope is that when the statue is unveiled they remember which finger Winmar used. Spoiler alert: racism in football, or anywhere else, has not yet been properly addressed.

 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Malcolm X and Alex Haley – you’ve never read crystal clear prose until you’ve read this. Normally I shun introductions as I think they cloud the reader’s judgement but not on this occasion. Haley’s task was not an enviable one and it became no easier, especially in the remaining weeks of Malcolm’s life when he knew his days were numbered. How the words don’t set the pages on fire by this stage in the book is beyond me.

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – the first of a chronology of autobiographies. There were seven in total. This one only goes up to when she had reached the age of seventeen, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t think she was 45 by the last page.

 

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck – try singing Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” from Vacation with this title instead. But seriously, this is a great little novella set on the docks in Monterey, California about a group of well-meaning down-and-outers who continually just cock it up.

 

In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett by Tony Fletcher – astounding that the Wicked Pickett did not have a book written about him until 2016. It was worth the wait.

 

The Sell Out by Paul Beatty – Rejected by 18 different publishers, Man Booker Prize winner for 2016. American satire as subtle as a brick to the face.

 

The Short Long Book by Martin Flanagan

 

The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan – hadn’t read this in about 15 years when I was doing my arts degree. I think we’re all in the same boat when it comes to the Flanagans on this forum. This was my introduction.

 

The Line by Arch & Martin Flanagan

 

On Listening by Martin Flanagan – shorter than The Short Long Book.

 

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – Orwell’s account of one of the most mind-boggling of all civil wars. One of those books that spent years on my shelf. The kind you put on there in the hope that others will see it and be suitably wooed. Then you finally grow up, pull your finger out and read it.

 

Brotherboys: The Story of Jim and Phillip Krakouer by Sean Gorman – a great accompaniment to Black and Proud and no less essential.

 

Fabulous Phil – by Matt Watson

 

Empire : How Britain Made The Modern World by Niall Ferguson

 

Larrikins and Legends – The Untold Story of Carlton’s Greatest Era by Dan Eddy – my Tiger supporting wife would be more than happy for this book to be reduced to ashes but the greatness of the 1979-82 Blues is undeniable. Dan Eddy’s got the prose to match.

 

Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son by Mark Colvin

 

Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James

 

Don’t Let My Past Become Your Future: A Call To Arms by Harry Leslie Smith – 95 years young and still churning out brilliant work for The Guardian. In the age of Trump, Brexit, and the so called “alt-right”, Smith, a survivor of the Great Depression and a Second World War veteran presents a survival guide, memoir and a beacon of hope in these dark times.

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin – the first of the great man’s work I’ve read and I can promise you it won’t be the last.

 

Memphis ’68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul by Stuart Cosgrove – a native of Perth (Scotland, not WA) this is the second of his “soul” trilogy and was released just last year. The follow up to Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul. Cosgrove does more than merely present a musical biography here but draws heavily on the social history surrounding the period such as the events surrounding the Detroit riots of ’67 and, in this edition, it’s bookended by further tragedy beginning with the December ’67 death of Otis Redding and culminating in the death of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine motel in Memphis which, until then was a retreat for musicians from the Stax recording studio and has since become a civil rights museum. Can’t wait for Harlem ’69. Anyone even remotely interested in soul music should check out Stuart Cosgrove.

 

The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin

 

The Outsider by Albert Camus – this will do if you haven’t got the time for Crime and Punishment

 

I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres – too seldom do we get to hear it from the woman’s perspective. Start with this one.

 

How the West Was One: Memoirs of Melbourne’s Western Suburbs – Collected and edited by Karyn Howie and Sue O’Brien – my love affair with Melbourne finally makes it over the Westgate Bridge.

 

The Fight by Norman Mailer – this in no way suggests my endorsement of Norman Mailer the person, I must add. That aside, it’s a brilliant account of the Ali v Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire in 1974. Without being too smart, it really hits its stride when it finally gets to the fight.

 

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

 

A Thoroughly Unhelpful History of Australian Sport by Titus O’Reily – hands up who here has read this already? All of you? Ok good. It would be so much more funny if it all wasn’t so damn true, right?

 

The Wayward Tourist by Mark Twain – hadn’t read Twain until this so why not start with his account of his tour of Australia? Don Watson writes the intro. 

 

First Abolish the Customer: 202 Arguments Against Economic Rationalism by Bob Ellis – probably my favourite Australian writer following the Flanagans. One argument ought to be enough but 202 will do just as well.

 

I’ll spare you my to-read list but I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of Martin Flanagan’s new one A Wink From The Universe. It’s a fabulous complement to Southern Sky, Western Oval.

 

Tomorrow I’m picking up Tex Perkins’ autobiography. On that note, rest in peace Brian Henry Hooper.

 

 

 

About Adam Fox

I'm based in Perth where I coordinate a radio show called "Soulsides" on RTR-FM. I collect and play rare soul and rhythm and blues 45s and despite my Perthian upbringing I chose to follow Geelong when West Coast came on the scene. I love the history of the game, particulary the VFL era and the suburban grounds and as much as I love the game I am also very fond of those who write about it. My passions are footy, soul music, my cats, my wife and young son Matteo and the city of Melbourne.

Comments

  1. Earl O'Neill says:

    Neat list, Adam, thanx. I’ve read nine of those, a few others by some of the authors and a few on similar topics. Now in the middle of Robert Gordon’s ‘Respect Yourself.’ Thanks for the tip on Stuart Cosgrove.
    ‘I’m with the band’ is a neat document, my copy disappeared long ago, lent it to a few women who read and got it. Funny how hanging w big stars at the Roxy wasn’t much different to hanging w local legends at the Hopetoun.
    ‘The Exciting Wilson Pickett’ was the first southern soul album I bought.
    Some folks reckoned that the Beasts gig Brian played wore him out finally, I prefer to think that he hung on so he could do it. Playing ‘Chase the dragon’ from his oxygen-equipped wheelchair, attended by a retinue of young nurses, that’s a neat last public image.

  2. Adam Fox says:

    Cheers, Earl. The Robert Gordon’s a great read. Dreams to Remember by Mark Ribowsky is a pretty good accompaniment to that one. As is Memphis ’68.

    I saw the footage of Brian with the Beasts. Was lucky enough to see them in ’05 and ’06 when they played Metros in Fremantle. This was after Brian’s accident and he was told he’d never walk again. From Bassendean originally so I hear. With his recovery from that incident in mind I wasn’t surprised to see him gather what was left of his strength just to make that show. Reminds me not only of Lobby Lloyde’s final appearance but the story Henry Rollins told of the benefit gig for Paul Fox, guitarist and founding member of The Ruts (of the same ilk as the Pistols, Clash, etc but way way better). Had the same condition as Brian but by way of some miracle got it together enough to do the gig on his own two feet with Rollins handling vocal duties for Malcolm Owen who passed in 1980.

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