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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) by Alan Sillitoe

Image for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
A young Albert Finney played Arthur Seaton in the film.
Book Review:
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958)
by Alan Sillitoe
Ebook Edition by Open Road Media, published April 19th, 2016
Purchase Kindle Edition on

  Previously unavailable as an Ebook, Alan Sillitoe's classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is being released on April 19th, 2016, along with his book of short stories, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.  Saturday Night and Sunday Morning comes with a short biography of the author by his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight, as well as about a dozen photographs of Sillitoe at various times in his life.  Priced at 13.60 USD, it's a little on the steep side for a 200 page book, but the price is mitigated by the relative difficulty of finding a real world copy anywhere outside of a library.

  Although he (somewhat predictably) despised the label, Sillitoe is properly grouped with the Angry Young Men of 50's English literature.  These authors, as a group, gave a voice to young, working-class men who had previously been almost wholly excluded from the precincts of literature.  They also captured the nascent youth sub-cultures that would blossom in the early 1960's.  I believe that Saturday Night and Sunday Morning has the first description of the "Teddy Boy" culture in a novel, beating Absolute Beginners by Colin Macinnes by virtue of an earlier date of publication.

  The passage where Arthur describes his wardrobe is particularly memorable:

  "After a tea of sausages and tinned tomoatoes he sat by the fire smoking a cigarette.  Everyone was out at the pictures.  He stripped of his shirt and washed in the scullery, emerging to scrub himself dry with a rough towel before the fire.  Up in his bedroom he surveyed his row of suits, trousers, sports jackets, shirts, all suspended n colourful drapes and designs, good-quality tailor-mades, a couple of hundred quids' worth, a fabulous wardrobe of which he was proud because it had cost him so much labour.  For some reason he selected the fines suit of black and changed into it, fastening the pearl buttons of a white silk shirt and pulling on the trousers.  He picked up his wallet, then slipped lighter and cigarette case into an outside pocket.  The final item of Friday night ritual was to stand before the downstairs mirror and adjust his tie, comb his thick hair neatly back, and search out a clean handkerchief from the dresser draw.  Square-toed black shoes reflected a pink face when he bent down to see that no speck of dust was on them. Over his jacket he wore his twenty-guinea triumph, a thick three-quarter overcoat of Donegal tweed."

  This passage encapsulates the concern of working-class English youth with their look and style that would define twentieth century pop culture, not only in England and the British Isles, but also in American and Europe.  Arthur Seaton, the narrator and protagonist, works in a factory but fancies himself a dandy.   Most of the book concerns his almost aristocratic affairs with taken women.  He goes so far to seduce a pair of married sisters, and his joie de vivre causes him no end of trouble.   Publishing this as an ebook is a service to the reading public, and all those interests in the roots of 20th century popular culture should give Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe a whirl.

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