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More raw material

fulwood, Neil
Format: Paperback
Publisher: misc (N/A)
ISBN: 9780993424106


“In the beginning was the word, and Adam was the Printer’s Devil.”
Thus begins Alan Sillitoe’s 1972 part-novel-part-autobiography hybrid Raw Material, a book that was “meta” before the term was prevalent. Alan was a writer’s writer and there was no form of literary endeavour or discipline that was out of bounds for him. He continually experimented and pushed himself and challenged his readers and he didn’t give a damn whether that put a dint in his popularity or not. “Go back to Nottingham, Mr Sillitoe,” raged a reviewer perplexed by his existential novel The General. You have to wonder what that selfsame critic made of the anti-thrillers The Lost Flying Boat and The German Numbers Woman, the feminist character study Her Victory, or the deconstructive late-period masterpiece The Broken Chariot.

His output was prodigious: more than sixty volumes – a lot more if you count small press editions and limited printings – across six decades. Novels, short fiction, poetry, essays, travel writing, plays, film scripts, children’s books, a memoir. And letters. He corresponded enthusiastically, always writing in longhand: a beautiful, perfectly legible script in fountain pen. We’ve yet to see any evidence of a smudge. His literary output was typed, corrections made by hand. There was a brief experiment with word processing. It ended badly.

In putting together More Raw Material, we not only wanted to pay tribute to Alan Sillitoe, but to capture something of his spirit. So we asked our contributors for personal reminiscences, short fiction, essays, travel writing, poetry. Alan’s first chosen form as a writer was poetry yet his talents in this respect were never fully recognised, despite a handsome Collected Poems published in 1993. We hope this collection will stand as a corrective to the lazy, inaccurate “Alan Sillitoe as angry young man” theorising that fixates on three or four volumes from the outset of his career and misses the riches and diversity of a life’s work.

We also hope that it will entertain, inspire and invigorate. We are honoured that such a roster of talented and important writers – both established and up-and-coming – agreed to be part of this project. Alan left us in 2010. In assembling this anthology, it has felt like he’s never been gone.

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