Sunday, May 27, 2018

Between town and country

Why, asks author Andy Miller in this article for Unbound, have British novels largely ignored the suburbs, the places where most of us live? Why is it that, on the rare occasions that they do feature, they are routinely seen as "small-minded, bourgeois, suffocating"? Why are fictional suburbanites almost all seeking to escape - either attracted by the magnetic pull of the city and all its excitements or alternatively attempting a flight/retreat into the bucolic bliss of the country?

Miller doesn't really have much of an answer, other than suggesting that the sniffy attitude of the literati might be to blame, but he does take the opportunity to eulogise some of the few novels that do treat the suburbs and their inhabitants in a manner that is sympathetic and warm rather than coldly detached and critical.

He ends with a plea: "There are so many untold stories out there, so many undocumented lives in the avenues and new estates, so much experience waiting to be tapped and so many people who have never seen themselves in the mirror of fiction. Isn't it about time they had their turn?" At which point his reader is very likely to nod in agreement.

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