Radcliffe. David Storey. Longmans, 21s.
‘“But just think what if this separate thing were in one man, and the body, the acting part in another? What if these two qualities were typified ideally in two separate men? Then just imagine the unholy encounter of two such people!”’.
Love as the reconciliation of a fundamentally schizoid state has been with us since Plato made the joke in The Symposium. A hoary and mystified idea is not concealed by claiming that your fictional protagonists are ‘confused’. Yet this is what David Storey tries to do. Leonard Radcliffe representing ‘this separate thing’—the chaotic, finally insane, mind, the artist, ‘that part of you that is called the soul’ has a homosexual relationship with ‘the body’, Victor Tolson, a bronzed neo-Lawrentian figure with all the earthy warmth (to his family) of the hyper-virile brute. A vulgar use of murder, insanity, homosexuality and incest is Storey’s way of staging this ‘unholy’ encounter. The predictability of everything that happens in the novel underlines that such subjects are there for effect, rather than exploration. The novel is made worse by its simplicity of ideas and bad ‘purple’ writing: ‘The sun had flooded into the dale, and the whitened rock and hedged fields trembled and pounded upwards. The earth ate up the heat, and the river was the only live thing boiling and frothing through its grey-rocked bed and past the bare scars on the hillside.’ The ersatz lyricism neither mitigates nor reinforces the extreme brutality of David Storey’s novel. j.m.