Monday, 4 October 2010

Manchester Reads the Sixties

"There was a man. . .a writer of subversive literature."
-Minister of the Interior, A Clockwork Orange

A little celebration of the literature of the 1960's took place on the first of the month at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. The building, from what I can gather, is a cross between a coffee shop, a bookshop, a museum and a literary research facility- bare brick walls, Burgess novels for sale. Burgess himself lived just down the road in Withington, with his piano-player father and singer / dancer mother. It's fitting that there's a venue in the city recognising his achievements. I was one of the youngest people there- most of the audience had about 20 years on me, and the panel had maybe 30.

So who were the panel? Editorial Director of Penguin Books, Tony Lacey; biographer and writer of The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, Andrew Biswell; author of 60's novel The Millstone, Margaret Drabble (who was “impersonating Lynn Barber”, an author/journalist who couldn't make it), and Ian Haywood (Professor of English at the University of Surrey Roehampton and author of Working-Class Fiction: from Chartism to Trainspotting).

Margaret Drabble's third son is Gardener's World's Joe Swift. Small world.

Books mentioned: Kes, A Clockwork Orange, The Millstone, Upstairs Downstairs. Mr. Biswell describes how the working class was first brought to the public eye in popular literature during this time, particularly with the above examples. He reads out the cinema scene in Kes. He discusses Nadsat, the dialect used by Alex and his “droogs” in A Clockwork Orange. He discusses what Kubrick left out of the film- the drugs, the child's skull in Alex's wardrobe, the child rape scene that was filmed as adult consensual sex (and edited into fast forward against the William Tell Overture). See here:

Apparently, the original script- with some of this still included- is in the basement of the Anthony Burgess Foundation.

While I was there I bought Biswell's book along with Don't Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne DuMaurier. Nicholas Roeg's 1973 adaptation is possibly the scariest film ever made, so hopefully the book won't disappoint.

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