The ABC (Almanac Book Club) – a call for members!


Football is a story with no end. It’s a bag of air and make-believe, with the hopes of so many in its thrall. Our code – Australian Rules football – reflects who we are and what we want to be, and how we’ve created our place in the world.


Melbourne, a bookish city, is considered the sporting capital of Australia, a country where the national gaze is often enough drawn outdoors. As a community, we’re enchanted by feats of the body: the toil of the fast bowler, shooting a wave, wood-chopping at the show, our muscular winter pursuits. Historian Graeme Davison, a Bomber by birth, coined the “imaginary grandstand”; our bare ovals as crucibles for identity. We barrack, we belong.


Sport is a drama played also in the mind. It is an imagined game. It can be found in books, in words, in ideas. “It goes to my head like a drug,” wrote Barry Oakley in A Salute to the Great McCarthy, published in 1970 and still ringing true. “I see at once the essence of football, it is a performing art, the ball now coming again, lower and faster this time, a level bullet.”


Melbourne, as far as we know, doesn’t have a book club devoted to one of its enduring talking points – sport – and this must change. Footy Almanackers (& others) unite! So here is the proposal …. drum roll, please…. for the founding of Melbourne’s very own Almanac Book Club. (Those interstate or overseas don’t fret – we will be posting reviews online and encouraging comment as always).


It’ll be a casual club, no jacket required, and none of those little membership medallion thingies, that’ll meet every six weeks – beginning on a Thursday evening (selection night!) at the Royal Melbourne Hotel in Bourke Street.


And the first book off-the-shelf as a conversation starter? Let’s go for local writer Paul Amy’s recent biography of a legendary Port Melbourne VFA footballer: Fabulous Fred – the Strife and Times of Fred Cook. Details of how to participate are below. We might see if the author wants to join us, around the round table.




My colours are yellow and black but please, dear sports fan, dear football lover, do not be dissuaded. It is my prejudice, my burden, but also my great joy when Dusty has the ball and his chest is open, and a low winter sky is filled with possibilities and all else in the world means nought. For that moment, I am lost in the game.


As with the crowd in the outer, the idea of this book club is to be open to all. Carlton people, even. We hear Joffa is publishing his biography this year; he’s as welcome as anyone else. The game once may have fractured along inner-city rivalries and feuds, or on suburban and country recruiting zones, but it also made us as whole. It is a shared language, easily understood by all who follow the ball’s oval-shape of chance.


So, yes, the Almanac Book Club, with a leaning to the local game.


Please spread the word to all Footy Almanackers, and others, who you think might like to join. It’ll be an open-hearted book club, that some might just want to dip into and dip out of. Others, it’s hoped, might be regular participants.


The uniting theme will be sport, as viewed through literature, from our place in the world. David Williamson’s The Club. Miriam Sved’s Game Day. Paul D. Carter’s Eleven Seasons. Anna Krien’s Night Games. Nathan Buckley’s All I Can Be.


We’ve much to talk about. And that’s before we even get to David Foster Wallace on the topic of tennis, or anything that’s been written on cricket (or soccer, baseball, long-distance running, cycling, swimming).


Interested? Please send me an email and we’ll organise a first night. Watch this space for further details.


Dugald Jellie



** Comments are always welcome, but please use the above link to contact Dugald to register your interest in being a part of the Book Club ** 




  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You left out “Sticks” and “Real Footballers Don’t Cry”

  2. sign me up dugald

    nank [email protected]

    the great McCarthy the film was a legend of the crossover genre and in the case of bazza Humphries the cross dressing genre. jack dyer and lou Richards playing more or less themselves- no need for script there. if kate Fitzpatrick was born a bloke she would been another dermie Brereton. bruce spence today would have been put in the gym and told not to come out until he looked like a ruckman in the ivan marik and macevoy mode.

    interesting topic of conversation when discussing bucks missive is what influence did his father ray have on him.


  3. Just PROMISE not to make anyone read Mark Ricciuto’s book.

  4. ROO!!!!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I can file a review on each of The Rat, Roo, Black Crow, Goody and Bicks, or on second thoughts…

  6. Joe Moore says

    This is a fantastic idea Dugald. Would love to be involved, but Bass Strait poses significant geographical and logistical problems! Best of luck and enjoy.

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