Friday, 27 January 2012

‘Passed art’

I’ve been making space. (Which is what you do when you come home from time away and see what a tip you live in.) That is, carting off whole shelves of books to Oxfam. I shift into ruthless mode – but then, as the books come off the shelves, the letters fall out, the postcards, the yellowing reviews and interviews, and it takes a little longer than I’d expected.

The letters are for me to deal with. The clippings from newspapers remind me how repetitive newspapers are, of how much that is said now has been been said before. ‘I dislike the whole social context of the novel, and where it is, the conventional apparatus which has featured so largely for so long. The novel in England in this kind of society is passed art. The tradition wanders on in a desultory fashion . . . The novel is no longer a reliable metaphor for what’s going on.’ That’s 1970, forty-odd years ago. That’s David Storey.

David Storey’s first three novels – This Sporting Life (1960), Flight into Camden (1961), Radcliffe (1963) – didn’t so much speak to me as grab me by the goolies. Northern, father a miner, wrestling with the inner life and the social codes, he was, in a rough way, Lawrence, but alive and writing now (then). After those, plays, and other, cooler novels (he won the Booker in 1976), and long silences. Sometime while I was working at Faber they published a book by his daughter, the fashion designer Helen Storey; there was a party at some extravagant venue to which I didn’t go, and when someone told me there was an older man there, on his own, not mixing, wished I had.


Anonymous said...

Charles, I am in Dublin on family duty and trying to entertain myself while my mother dozes at the fire. Hope you are doing well. I am still in London. Date of departure is now, em, about, em, 20Feb. What about listing some of those books you are throwing out here or somewhere else and saying how much you want for them? Special deals? Three-for-two, one-for-twenty, twenty-for-one, six-for eight, twenty-four for three?

charles said...

Gone, gone. Visit the Oxfam bookshop in Portobello Road in the next few weeks if interested. Some peaches remain, e.g. first editions of Tony Harrison, The Loiners; Bernard Spencer, With Luck Lasting; Rosemary Tonks, Emir. A random selection of large-format children's books with illustrations to die for, 1950s onwards. All negotiable: email me.