The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

The great writer Alan Sillitoe has just died, aged 82. He was one of my formative influences, writing in a working-class register that angry young boys growing up in a brutal industrial cities in the 1970s could make some sense of and relate to. In reading about his life a while back I discovered that he was on the edge of packing it all in before a publisher finally offered him a deal: he’d received the usual thirty rejection slips prior to his breakthrough. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what on earth editors see when they read.

The publishers of my first collection of stories sent proofs to Alan Sillitoe – he said some kind words which they used on the cover. Though I knew my work wasn’t in his class, nothing could have meant more to me than to receive an encomium from such a source. I nearly met him once, a few years ago. I noticed him because he was wearing an odd leather waistcoat and was smoking a pipe, this was in the Hungarian Culture Centre in London. It was only after the event that George Szirtes told me who he was. George and Alan Sillitoe were friends; I imagine George will write a proper appreciation on his blog (link on sidebar).

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4 Responses to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

  1. calvininjax says:

    That is sad news indeed.

    Sillitoe’s books were required reading during my youth, both formally at school, Hanley High, and informally, courtesy of Stoke Public Library.

  2. calvininjax says:

    Looks like only you and me ever bothered to read his novels.

    Perhaps other male contributors are just too angry, but certainly not young, to comment. 😉

  3. Stephen Foster says:

    We had certain of his works in a box at the front of the form room which you had to pick up for quiet reading while registration and stuff took place (this was in the days when even deprived school children like us were well behaved and could still be whipped*). Sillitoe’s books were second most popular to A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow which had sex scenes in it.

    * not like this poor guy:

  4. wakefip says:

    When I was 17 I remember having a fuzzy hangover head on and wandering/stumbling in to Sisson and Parkers on Bridlesmith gate in Nottingham. I picked up a copy of Sillitoe’s Saturday night sunday morning and started to read chapter one. The drunken scene in a Nottingham pub was so real. I’d never read anything like it – I could smell the beer and fags, sense the edgy atmoshere.

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