BR’s calls to France were mostly about the ordinary business of being apart but he did mention Stan Barstow’s obituary and I asked him to clip it for me.
Been back a fortnight and have just come across the clipping. I was instantly making connections First to the astonishing resemblance of Barstow to the glamorous Gregory Peck – who was all over the screens in the years when Barstow was writing his groundbreaking novel A Kind of Loving in the time he could spare from his job as a draughtsman.
The writer mentions Barstow’s role in the rise of the regional literary novel in the late fifties and early sixties. Possibly to the detriment of his national standing, Barstow stayed in the north, asserting later, ‘To hoe one’s own row diligently, thus seeking out the universals in the particular, brings more worthwhile satisfaction than the frantic pursuit of the largely phoney jet age internationalism…’
A largely fair obituary is marred by the inclusion of one critic’s comment that ‘At least you know where you are in the company of Mr Barstow’s sentimentalised Tykes … there’s usually Trooble at t’Mill, the privy sits proudly at the end of the garden, and lives revolve round the family.’
Yaargh! These mean, mistaken and ill conceived phrases manage to combine the regional. literary, linguistic and class snobbery that still has a stranglehold on the British literary world. As a writer of some ‘regional literary novels’ myself I too have encountered this same frustrating prejudice . American literature celebrates fiction from its non-metropolitan regions and is much more deep, rich and substantial for it.
Back to the clipping. The other absolutely astonishing resemblance in the picture is to my own Dad, who would have been Barstow’s contemporary. The same sharp strong features, the same film star moustache and thick dark Brylcreemed hair, the same fierce direct look, neat suit and tight tie.
The same working class élan…
Footnote; My dad died when I was nine and my mother was thirty six. (See my memoir The Romancer on the sidebar). She adored Gregory Peck ( the George Cloony of that era)and in her long years alone went to see every film he made. She went to see Captain Horatio Hornblower six time. Now I do rate G Peck myself but this seemed excessive.
Or it did. until my revelation today.