Next to being a famous and rich writer, instantly recognised on the streets by your gold bicycle, acclaimed in public places, lionised by ladies and bowed to by posh people, much nudged about, next to all this the perennial juvenile dreams of some quieter status; of finding his name listed (not vulgarly, right at the top, but certainly not at the very bottom which is also too conspicuous) and among the significant literary figures of the century.
Thus Jack Trevor Story‘s hopes when reviewing someone else’s book in … I know not where because the rag-bag collection of pieces I’m quoting from – Jack on the box (Savoy Books, 1979) – unfortunately doesn’t give any original publication details. A not unreasonable aspiration, nevertheless, given that JTS is one of the great English novelists, comic (which he certainly is) or otherwise, and when, in particular, his Horace Spurgeon Fenton trilogy is a bildungsroman of the writing life in his auspicious times. But it’s a hope dashed even posthumously as far as John Sutherland‘s Lives of the novelists: a history of fiction in 294 lives (Profile Books, 2011) goes. You’re in decent company, Jack.
Here are just some of the writers who, in no particular order, didn’t make it in either: Doris Lessing, Thomas Pynchon, your mate Michael Moorcock, John Cowper Powys, Jack Kerouac, Kate Atkinson, Philip K. Dick, Joseph Heller, Philip Pullman, Michael Ondaatje and P.G.Wodehouse.
I mean, we all know how meaningless ‘greatest’ lists of anything can be. But this is not one of those; what it purports to be is history of the whole field, including the popular genres, seen in the lives of its significant players. That list does give cause for serious pause. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating overview in many many ways, and I’m still ploughing my way through. There’s a particularly interesting sub-plot which must reflect Sutherland’s experience of the rise of the feminist wing in the groves of academe in the last 30 years of the twentieth century; how exactly he suffered at their hands one can only guess, but the scars are there for all to see. More about Lives another time, and the same goes for Jack (“Writer, Artist and Yearbook“) Trevor Story; and indeed he who is up next.
I’ve also got on the go the new book from the author who chooses simply to be known as Bateman these days. Very funny man, some great lines, and here are just two of them, which are even funnier if you know the context but still work quite well enough if we let them stand on their own here:
‘And how is the poetry business?’
And so to Stony Stratford’s fiercely fought Bardic Trials, held last week, where, in the final, the diminutive (in stature, in stature) Danni Antagonist narrowly – three votes in a crowded room – took this year’s crown in back room at The Crown. Splendid night, finished off by another storming performance from (yet to be discovered national treasures) The Antipoet. Double bass and far-from-beat poetry, on this occasion ably augmented by a bongo-ist. (There’s plenty of previous evidence on TouTube)
Not has Stony got (to the James Brown backing track) got a brand new bard,
but Danni’s got a brand new blog
here at http://stonybard.blogspot.com/