A City's Literature

Five 'mini' books are to be published on Liverpool as it gears up to take on the mantle of City of Culture next year. Scousers have always been incredibly sentimental when it comes to their city, just think of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' - which has always reminded me of the way Irish immigrants used to be about 'the green green grass of home' when they came over here to work - like my dad, forever wistful but not really wanting to return. They have always clung onto the Beatles for dear life, too. Anyway. I was thinking, what books could tell the story of each place? It really continues on, also, from my previous post on 'what is a nation?' in which I asked, if you identify a specific nation that you are from, what is it's literature? For the West Country there would be no contest - Thomas Hardy, and even Daphne Du Maurier, even though she wasn't actually a native, though she spent a lot of time there. When one thinks of Wales it's Dylan Thomas. Nottingham, Alan Sillitoe. London. Dickens. And Shakespeare. Even though he was from the midlands! He was London-centric, but England's own. Anthony Burgess was born, brought up, and educated in Manchester, yet he seemed to turn his back on it once he left. I'm originally from Manchester and I asked myself, if I had to choose five books that summed up the city what would they be? Well, I suppose the immediate ones that come to mind are those that are most obvious, and, the oldest - like Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton - A Tale of Manchester Life, Mrs. G.L. Banks The Manchester Man, whose main character was Jabez Clegg, Walter Greenwood's Love on the Dole. More recently there would be sci-fi from Jeff Noon's Vurt. And Howard Jacobson's excellent Kalooki Nights, which is centred around the 'Jewish' part of the city. Then there's Gwendoline Riley, whose works I've yet to read, though I am keen to. It's funny but, when it comes to Manchester one automatically thinks of music, fuelled in large part by The Hacienda and Madchester. But it really does have rather a strong 'literary' tradition too.

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