Best book of 2010: Richo
In my defence, I’d like to point out that I was wrangling a team of reviewers, that year, headed by the estimable Stephanie Holt and Thuy On, both of whom could be relied upon to cover the usual suspects -- or in Thuy’s case the most recent Martin Amis book -- in their respective wraps.
My gong in 1999 went to Thea Astley’s Drylands. I wrote at the time that it would’ve been a strong contender for book of the decade. 2001’s nod went (somewhat belatedly) to John Banville’s Eclipse. Then came the non-fiction years, post 9/11: Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, John Miller’s Al Qaeda book The Cell, and so on... Then fiction caught up with the apocalypse again... with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
All were made after long hard thought and a lot of reading.
But, hell, even I’m hesitating about this latest one. And, I confess, I haven’t read as much or as widely as in previous years. Nevertheless, I’ve gotta say the best book I encountered in 2010 was Richo. No, not an as-yet unpublished expose on the NSW Labor power broker. The other Richo: former Richmond full-forward in the AFL.
It’s billed as co-written by Matthew Richardson and Martin Flanagan, but it is a Flanagan book through and through. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Flanagan chose Richo, the man, as the perfect pretext for the book he wanted to write. This is a mighty book of history -- of inner urban Melbourne as much as it is of VFL footy -- of sociology and anthropology.
It’s a book driven by curiosity rather than fanaticism. As a result, it has a much broader appeal than you might imagine. The fact that I could be arsed flicking through a book about a player I didn’t know from Adam Ramanauskas [kidding], in a team that has been down on its luck for decades, in a game that doesn’t exactly lend itself to great literature says a lot about [a] the author and [b] the sheer quality of the story-telling. And I could not put it down.
So, even if your interest in AFL is passing, as long as you think there is something to be learned about society and masculinity -- about life itself -- from its blood sports, Richo is well worth a look. Better than that. It’s pretty much essential reading for Melburnians and the odd punter from Tassie. At the very least.
Richo is published by Ebury Press, a Random House imprint.