Life Without Armour

Alan Sillitoe, Author
Alan Sillitoe, Author HarperCollins Publishers $30 (0p) ISBN 978-0-00-255570-8
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-00-638430-4
Paperback - 274 pages - 978-1-86105-652-8
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Sillitoe, best known as the author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959), makes clear, in this memoir, that the key to his career was not only his persistence in writing--and rewriting--in the face of rejection but also the armor of his small RAF pension, earned at age 21 for service-incurred tuberculosis, which afforded him a decade of income akin to a literary fellowship. Applying himself both to work and to women, he lived by Ohms law, which he learned in his air force radio job as a flight controller: ""The current in a conductor is directly proportional to the applied voltage."" Radio school also taught, indirectly, how to cope with both hope and letdown--""that the electromotive force of an alternating current goes through the positive and negative phases of an oscillatory circuit."" From his own experience he also found his subject matter and how to handle it: ""Poor people have vile lives... and one has to write about their tribulations and follies as if one loves them."" With gritty detail, Sillitoe evokes working-class life in wartime D.H. Lawrence country, postwar military service abroad in Malaya and the expatriate literary (and amorous) ambience in France and Spain. Although the narrative closes with the making of the author's reputation, the understated manner of its telling is at odds with the vivacity of his earlier memories. (Sept.)
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