Our regulars will recall that only last summer Margaret Drabble went into print on behalf of Angus Wilson’s splendid Late Call (1964), one of the jewels in our Finds offerings of Wilson’s works; and now Gillian Darley has composed a long piece for the Guardian‘s Re-Readings page in which she too extols the merits of what she describe as ‘to my knowledge, the only work of fiction to be set in a postwar new town.’ The socio-historical interest of the new towns and their ripeness for writerly exploration only grows, I suppose; and that is why Darley is smart to note Andrew O’Hagan’s reflections on his Irvine childhood in The Missing toward the end of her piece. This is her thoughtful conclusion:
“The late social theorist and anarchist Colin Ward who, as he put it, “wandered around new towns for 40 years” and steadfastly believed in their aspirations, remarked how by the early 1990s they had “become old towns for the new generations growing up there”. People had grown old and died in those houses, entire generations had come and gone. As O’Hagan wrote, “some things had gone well with the new town idea; other things had not gone well at all”. Yet, seen from our current cramped perspective, that underlying breadth of vision is still admirable, embodying a social morality that we, apparently, can no longer afford. For [Wilson's protaonist] Sylvia Calvert, at least, the new town was a new beginning…”
The Guardian ran a fine and distinctive ‘Summer Reading’ feature on the weekend, for which authors were asked to cite a book that was especially dear to them and which they first encountered in a particular summer at a particular location. The whole piece is obviously worth a thorough read; I will only draw your attention to this nomination by Margaret Drabble, the title being Late Call by Angus Wilson, of which Finds has been the proud publisher since 2009:
My most memorable holiday book is Angus Wilson’s LATE CALL, which I read on holiday in Morocco, or rather on my way to Morocco, for I think I read it on the boat from Marseille to Tangier. I had discovered Wilson’s work while still at university and eagerly read each book as it was published; this novel, which came out in 1964, was as gripping as all the others had been, and very unexpected. It’s the story of a newly retired hotel manageress trying to adapt to life with her widowed headmaster son in a new town. It’s full of social comedy and human tragedy, and I remember being utterly gripped by the wholly real world Wilson created. It was a perfect companion on a trip that was at times rather unsettling. I don’t know how a sophisticated and highly educated man such as Wilson can have entered so fully into this woman’s hopes and fears, but he did. It’s also more experimental than it looks in terms of narrative technique. It was made into a TV series in which Dandy Nichols played the main role brilliantly. Many of Wilson’s books are now available through Faber Finds, including this one. I continue to associate it, quite inappropriately, with memories of Marseille, the Mediterranean and Casablanca.
Adán Buenosayres by Leopoldo Marechal (sadly not in Faber Finds, yet...)
This blog warmly welcomes comments, questions, feedback of all kinds, and is most keen to forge links with bibliophiles the world (and blogosphere) over. In this respect we are very glad of this recent mention from Club de Traductores Literarios de Buenos Aires, which is most complimentary about Faber Finds’ commitment to the ‘grandes libros del pasado’ (name-checking inter alia John Carey, Joyce Cary, Angus Wilson and A.L. Lloyd) and rates our endeavour in general as ‘una excelente iniciativa.’ We send fraternal regards back to Buenos Aires, literary city of Marechal, Borges, Cortazar, Manuel Puig and so many more; and we look forward to making more electronic friends in the year ahead.