Advertisements

Blog Archives

The Forgotten Bachman Book: Stephen King’s Roadwork

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads Richard Bachman’s lesser-known novel, Roadwork

Stephen King isn’t your run-of-the-mill horror writer. Indeed, he resists the generic label – ‘generic’ both because it identifies him with one genre but also because it is blandly general and nondescript – and might be better seen as a ‘writer’ full-stop. Or rather, as a storyteller, for at his best he uses good old-fashioned character-driven storytelling to explore dark themes and ideas. And nowhere do we see this more clearly, perhaps, than in Stephen King’s ‘non-Stephen-King’ novels – that is, his Bachman books.

King published four early novels under the name Richard Bachman, before his fifth outing under the pseudonym, Thinner, led to his cover being blown when a journalist noted the stylistic similarities between ‘Stephen King’ and ‘Richard Bachman’. (One reviewer of Thinner, unaware that Bachman was really Stephen King, remarked that it was ‘what Stephen King would write if Stephen King could write’. Which may be my favourite example of literary irony.) Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Writer’s Study: George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews Orwell’s early novel about the struggles of the writer

Depending on your tastes, you can blame or congratulate George Orwell for Wetherspoons. When Tim Martin founded his chain of British pubs in the late 1970s, he took as his inspiration – a sort of unofficial literary blueprint, if you will – an essay of Orwell’s, ‘The Moon under Water’, published in the London Evening Standard in 1946. To this day, a number of Wetherspoon pubs are named The Moon under Water in honour of Orwell’s think piece, including the one in my hometown, Milton Keynes.

Although principally known for his last two novels about totalitarianism, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and for his political essays about big questions surrounding nationalism, fascism, and Communism, George Orwell also wrote well about petty poverty, the writer’s life (see his ‘Confessions of a Book Reviewer’, also from 1946), and the English obsession with money, usually with having too little of it. Read the rest of this entry

Reviewing the Future: Will Self’s The Book of Dave

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews a dystopian novel about a new religion

Toxic masculinity. Patriarchy. Incel. Words like these are all over the internet of late, describing a perceived rise in misogynistic behaviours and attitudes among young men growing up in Britain, America, and elsewhere. Coupled with this is the worryingly small percentage of people – women as well as men – who self-identify as ‘feminists’ (just 7% of Britons, according to one survey). Could the utopian dream of gender equality, which appeared to be making some headway as the millennium came into sight, be retreating ever further into the distance?

One novelist who has explored such a question is Will Self. The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future (2006) reflects current anxieties surrounding the role of the father in a postmillennial world, issues pertaining to divorce and child custody, and the clash between altruism and self-interest. Religion, too, is a central theme: The Book of Dave projects the present-day fear and anger of the titular father-protagonist, Dave Rudman, into a future vision of London in which Dave’s ‘Book’ – written with the sole purpose of providing moral instruction for his son – has been taken up as a sacred text by Londoners dwelling in a neomedieval postdiluvian world five centuries hence. Read the rest of this entry