The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones

New Zealand has been waiting many years for quality writing about our national sport. Our other national myths – ANZACs and Gallipoli – have their literature, both fiction and non-fiction. Other countries have literature about their national sport – England and Nick Hornby spring to mind. But, finally, with this book I feel Lloyd Jones has given New Zealand the start of a literature documenting our obsession with rugby, and rugby’s place in our popular culture.

The Book of Fame is an imaginative companion to the 1905 Originals rugby tour of the Northern Hemisphere. The All Blacks (this was the first time they were known as such) swept all before them winning every single game except one against Wales where, controversially, Bob Deans was denied a try. This tour plus the ANZAC campaign at Gallipoli in World War One are the founding myths of New Zealand. If the landing at Gallipoli was our “coming of age” then this tour was the birth of our separate national identity. For Gallipoli we have Once on Chunuk Bair and now for the 1905 Originals tour we have The Book of Fame. I am not a fan of high literature, but I am a fan of rugby, and yet I really enjoyed this book. I especially enjoyed the attempt to put into poetic language what was special about the way that the All Blacks played. As a long time devotee of the game Jones’ words ring very true:

Space was our medium
our play stuff
we championed the long view
the vista
the English settled for the courtyard

The English saw a thing
we saw the space inbetween

Rating 4/5

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~ by Doug Newdick on February 3, 2008.

One Response to “The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones”

  1. I finishedd reading this book.

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