Summer – Quiet, Reading, Silence

The end of the year for some is helter skelter. For me, not so much. It’s a much-needed break from study, from work, from hockey (yes, already), from life. Thankfully, it isn’t a break from thinking.  There is plenty of time for that.

 

This festive season, I’ll spend a good deal of time doing somewhere between sod and all next to the pool (or the sea) in Adelaide. There is plenty of time to read. The only question is what to pack for the post-cricket pilgrimage back to the City of Churches (and Crows fans).

 

Writing for Meanjin, Richard Cooke went through his reading list, and the logic behind it all. Unlike Richard, I’m not quite at a point where I can only read for research (thank God), but I like to think I don’t read mindlessly. There is usually a flavour.

 

That flavour begins with Rebecca Solnit. Her words form a part of the rationale behind the books that I’ll pick up over the coming weeks, and forced me to think once more on titles I might’ve already covered off. I first encountered Solnit via this essay on Trump. I didn’t choose it, but rather, had to read it for class. I’m glad I didn’t skip it.

 

Her new-ish book of essays, The Mother of All Questions, is just as thought-provoking. It starts with what constitutes a fulfilling life, and misconceptions of what fulfilment looks like. Her reflections on silence, and those who are silenced, resonated.

 

The distinction between silence and quiet, for Solnit’s purpose, is important. Silence is imposed. Quiet is sought.

 

The topic of her book is the silence that has created a world where sexual harassment and domestic violence go unmentioned. It invites us to consider a world where these unspeakable things are no longer unspeakable, but openly reported, by men and women alike.

 

Silence is enforced on so many groups – Indigenous Australians and for that matter, first peoples everywhere; women; those who live in poverty; the refugees on Manus. There mightn’t be a piece of paper long enough to list them all.

 

M.Flanagan was asked to orate for the Melbourne Sports Writer’s Festival in 2016. His question was whether sport is political, and by extension, whether or not it should be. The response was swift. Flanagan simply asked, “When is it not?”.

 

If sport is political, sport must also involve silences. One only has to look to America, and specifically, to the NFL. Kneeling during the anthem has been slammed by you-know-who – a silent stand to break an imposed silence. The response is an attempt to end that stand, and impose silence once more.

 

Football (in all its different forms) is art, a mode of expression. Denying it to particular groups is another form of silence.

 

That silence in Australia is being broken by so many women, which will form the basis of a project I’m about to undertake at uni. It’ll involve large amounts of work on women’s sport, especially those who cross boundaries and play multiple codes. This, of course, is also shaping the summer reading list.

 

On the silence of our female athletes, Angela Pippos is a booming voice. Breaking the Mould is a spectacularly fitting title. Her book discusses her athletic talents, though she might tell you there was a lack thereof. Either way, her opportunities were few in many sports, footy amongst them. There is no better reflection on the current state of women’s sport and how the noise is increasing. Add it to your pile, if you haven’t done so already.

 

Another was a gift I gave, but will probably need to borrow back. I’ve unfortunately developed a reputation for buying other people books I want to read. I’m finding it difficult to shake and it’s harming Banister family relations. Susan Alberti’s book, The Footy Lady, was under the tree for my little sister. I’ll be stealing it back, if only for a time. Alberti is a pioneer.

 

I saw Jelena Dokic speak at The Wheeler Centre a few weeks back. Her new book, Unbreakable, is about how she suffered silently, and was silenced, by the hand of her father for so much of her career. Her spiral into depression nearly ended in suicide. Watching from the sixth row, it was scarcely possible to imagine that the eloquent, comfortable and cheerful Dokic who was before me on stage had been to such dark places, places she spoke so matter-of-factly about.

 

JM Bairstow‘s book arrived two days before Christmas. I was finished by the time he took the field for the Boxing Day Test. A Clear Blue Sky, co-authored with Duncan Hamilton, is about family, and the intertwined careers of a father and son. David Bairstow played for England and Yorkshire before he committed suicide. Johnny was eight at the time.

 

It’s a tribute to David, and to his mother and sister. It’s a reflection on the traditions of the Yorkshire CCC, and the fortunes of the two Bairstows who’ve walked out to bat at Headingley for the club, and for England. There is no great answer to how you overcome grief. To steal a phrase from JM, who stole it from Winston Churchill, “you just keep going”.

 

Like Marcus Trescothick’s Coming Back To Me, mental illness is central to Bairstow’s book. There is a message in both. Speak out. Talk. Don’t be silenced.

 

Michael Long refused to be silenced. The Short Long Book, written by Flanagan, is the only title of his I’m yet to read (at least until A Wink From The Universe, on the Doggies, arrives). You could do worse than to read Stan Grant’s Talking To My Country alongside it. I read Grant’s book before and on Australia Day in 2017. That date approaches, and we will be forced to reckon once more with the silences imposed on Indigenous Australia.

 

You might not pick up any of these titles (I might not even get to visit, or revisit, them all), but when you do next look for a book to peruse by the pool, think of those who’ve been silenced. Think of those you haven’t heard from. Think about why you haven’t heard them. Seek them out.

 

For every noise, there is silence – perhaps now more than ever.

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Very thoughtful piece. Many good recommendations there. Haven’t read their books but Jelena Dokic and Johnny Bairstow are outstanding people who have been through hell and kept walking. What doesn’t kill you…….

  2. Kasey Symons says:

    Always love a good reading list and love the message that accompanies this one that you’ve put together Jack. I love reading sports bios and the classic sporting tales but you’re so right, there are so many other stories out there that don’t receive the attention they deserve and most of the time they are the stories that we don’t realise that we need to hear. I’m looking forward to reading Jelena’s book on my break as well as going back through ‘Play On’ by Rob Hess and Brunette Lenkic before AFLW2!

  3. Colin Ritchie says:

    Fab article Jack. I’m an avid reader, love reading, and I usually have three or four books on the go at any one time. Usually get through 50+ books a year. Depending on my mood at the time determines which one I pick up. I have also discovered Rebecca Solnit in recent years, love her writing particularly those about walking. Very incisive and articulate writer who nails it everytime.

  4. Thanks Jack. Nice piece. I’ve taken those recommendations on board.

    I am enjoying Mike Sexton’s book on Ian Chappell – Chappell’s Last Stand.

    About a month ago I devoured Christian Ryan’s brilliant book – a year (1975) of Patrick Eagar’s photography. It’s called Feeling (is the Thing that Happens in 1/1000th of a Second).

  5. Thanks Peter – agree. JM Bairstow is a delight to watch and Dokic was, too. It was wonderful to hear her speak and see her through the worst of her struggles.

    Kasey – I shall have to look up Play On, amongst others. Mo Hope’s book perhaps, too. It’s also hard with sports books, because so many are very much samey when it comes to biographies and autobiographies.

    Agree wholeheartedly Colin – I didn’t keep a tally this year. I suspect I could try to do the Maths. There have been I think five in the last three weeks or so, all very different.

    Ta JTH – I’ll add them too the list. Unfortunately, it’s growing long, especially now I’ve discovered the work of G.Plimpton via Paper Lion! (Perhaps a new sporting interest, that NFL stuff)

  6. Thanks JBanister.

    If you’re back in Adelaide I suggest Mike Sexton’s book on Chappell too. Like all great cricket texts it’s about so much more than the on-field action. Yes, on the tele he might tell too many tales about Dennis, but he’s a seminal figure who’s shaped modern cricket like no other.

    I’m re-reading Richard Ford’s Sportswriters series because I’ve just started holidays and some end of year introspection seems a good idea.

    And I’m dipping in to the Tigers’ Almanac which arrived the other day. The accompanying Footy Almanac stubby-holder will be invaluable in this as I return to late September!

  7. Very good, Jack.
    I’ve just recommended that Rebecca Solnit piece to our beach holiday crew.
    Reads like something Trinity here learned about at her “women in power” course earlier in the year.

    Any time is a good time to slow down, open your mind.
    Love it.

  8. Thanks both – must get hold of Sexton now. I’ll also look the Ford up.
    A shame I don’t have all these books available to me today, This rain is really buggering my day up.

    Solnit is well, thought-provoking and confronting. But genius.

  9. Love the distinctions between quiet and silence and the way they thread through the above mentioned books.

  10. Thanks Kate.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Jack really thought provoking article I happened to pick up Jelena Dokic book yesterday geez what Jelena suffered wow just wow thank you

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