Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Adults should read Mal Peet

I read Anthony Clavane's Guardian Top Ten of Football Fiction this morning.

He includes A Kestel for a Knave, Goalkeepers are Different, Football Factory and others. Even the mighty
B S Johnson. Some great books.

But let's be honest: there's not a lot of decent football fiction around now - and there never has been.

That's why Anthony's list is a bit thin. If he had to do a second XI list, he'd be struggling.

The Damned United is the only stand out well-known novel about the beautiful game in recent years.

Or is it?

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Anthony. We're friends. We share a lot: football team (Leeds United), literary agent, a love of Tony Harrison's poems. His book - Promised Land - is a good read.

But what about children's books? Or Young Adult fiction?

This is not me trying to get my books in Anthony's list. His is clearly a list for adults. And I'm not the one to say mine would even get on a kids' top ten. There are plenty of great writers in the genre.

But I think Mal Peet's three football books - Keeper, Penalty and Exposure - are better than all the books on Anthony's list.

They are beautifully written, complex, and deeply moving. They include themes such as deforestation, ghosts, magic and celebrity meglomanic. And they are about football.

But not football in the sense of just kicking a ball around. They are about how players cope with fame, about what journalists have to do to get a story, about how some players can be very vulnerable and how fans fit into the picture. They chart the human condition superbly.

I think it is to do with classification. If a book is called a children's book or a Young Adult book, most adults would not consider it.

If you know an adult football fan, get them Keeper or Exposure. Football fiction at its best.

Anthony Clavane's list of ten great football fictions

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