THIS LOVE IS NOT FOR COWARDS – By Robert Andrew Powell

Daniel Brint Literature & Literary criticism 2 Comments

THIS LOVE IS NOT FOR COWARDS

By Robert Andrew Powell

Before the publication of Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby’s autobiographical account of being a football supporter, “the beautiful game” was not really considered a subject for serious writing. Football books were either ghosted biographies of stars and managers, or celebrations of particular clubs. Since Hornby, a genre of books about football has emerged, often dealing with the individual experience of supporters and sometimes branching out to explore the social and cultural contexts surround ingthe world’s favourite game – My Father and other Working Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach or Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper, for example.) Powell’s book is unusual as it is written by an American for whom football (or soccer) is not a religion given at birth, but a game played by and followed by foreigners – in his case, the peoples of drug scarred Jaurez in Mexico, where Powell has put down roots. In the USA, soccer is a minority sport and usually associated with girls, despite the numerous attempts over the years to export it to a national level. The fact Powell can stand at a distance from the sport is a definite advantage, giving his the detachment of an anthropologist. He follows the fortune – and mainly the misfortunes – of Los Indios, a team that inspires great loyalty but minimal joy. This book is about far more than soccer, however, it is an account of a community where murder is common, drug addiction the norm and law and order something that departed as the cartels moved in. Like supporting a losing team, survival depends on hope, determination, loyalty and belief, only unlike football, this really is a question of life and death

.THIS LOVE IS NOT FOR COWARDS

THERE’S A RIOT GOING ON – By Peter Doggett

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THERE’S A RIOT GOING ON

By Peter Doggett

Non-fiction (2007)

Revolutionaries, rock stars, 60’s counter-culture, black power, Vietnam…If you are interested in any of the former, this book will prove to be gripping and informative. Doggett’s style is lively and entirely readable. By linking social issues to rock music he effectively provides a soundtrack for the narrative, but a soundtrack that looks in detail at the way musical traditions were adapted and shaped by the events they reflected, or sometimes inspired. The book is full of fascinating detail, carefully balanced to represent the various political and revolutionary movements of the 60’s and early 70’s.

THERE’S A RIOT GOING ON

DIRT MUSIC – By Tim Winton

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DIRT MUSIC

By Tim Winton

DIRT MUSIC

When I began choosing books for a Book Club in Madrid I was worried that I might end up just selecting books I like. Several years on, that is probably the case, inasmuch as I never chose a book I dislike. What I try and do, however, is read books chosen more or less at random, as a way of broadening my own process of selection. One such choice, bought “sight unseen” was Tim Winton’s Dirt Music. It’s a book of immense lyricism, a sense of place so powerful you can smell the earth and brine, and a group of characters who, though disturbing and sometimes shocking, are entirely believable. After reading Dirt Music I ordered several other books by Winton. They were all good – interesting – but not one of them, in my opinion, comes close to the power of this novel. As for the plot, allow me to quote from the blurb: “Set in the wild landscape of Western Australia, this is a novel about the odds of breaking with the past, a love story about people stifled by grief and regret, whose dreams are lost, whose hope have dried up.” It is also about the moments of wordless music that rise from the dust and give us hope.

 

THE ROBBER BRIDE – By Margaret Atwood

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THE ROBBER BRIDE

By Margaret Atwood

The Robber Bride is a radical re-working of a fairly standard format. A number of protagonists (three women) are linked through shared suffering – in this case the impact on their lives of a seemingly classical femme fetal, and their separate narratives unfold at the same time as they interconnect and reflect. Finally, the narrative is brought back to the present (where it began) for the powerful ending. The plot and stories are brilliant but it is Atwood’s genius that makes them secondary to the psychological and social insights she provides into how different people respond to life’s challenges. Men, not unsurprisingly, do not emerge too favourably in this novel. Mostly they are vain, weak, lazy, predatory or just plain repulsive. It is even more interesting, therefore, that the person who brings the three women together is another woman, the femme fetal – Zenia. It’s a great book, shocking and provocative, with the capacity to take the reader into mysterious, uncomfortable areas of experience.

THE ROBBER BRIDE

SLEEPER WAKES – By Alistair Morgan

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SLEEPER WAKES

By Alistair Morgan

The blurb on the back of Sleeper’s Wake reads “In the aftermath of the car crash that killed his wife and daughter, John Wraith travels to a remote resort on the South African coast. There he meets Jackie, a disturbed young woman of seventeen, and is immediately and dangerously drawn to her.” The word wraith means ghost or spirit, and for someone who has recently lost his family, John is a kind of walking ghost, shocked and puzzled, detached from the processes of everyday life. Yet for all our sympathy, there is something odd and unappealing about the protagonist. Morgan draws a very fine line between suggestion and definition, the effect of which is to create a ghost-like narrator whose comments and subsequent behaviour do not add up. Wraith’s journey to the South African coast takes us to a landscape uncomfortably mixing human civilization and the forces of nature and it is here that John re-engages with life, though in doing so further ambiguities and dangers are revealed. Perhaps the excellent parts of the book – the style, atmosphere, characters – do not quite add up to a satisfying whole; personally I felt a little disappointed and wondered whether it would have been better as a long short story, but it is an interesting read by a new talent.

SLEEPER WAKES