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D.J. Enright

‘It isn’t easy to talk about storytelling … Explanations only mystify. Sophisticated people may be able to explain their way out of mystification, and good luck to them, but a storyteller may well succeed in explaining his way into it which, believe me, ladies and gentlemen, is bad luck for him.’ It goes without saying (which is as well, since one might not actually want to say it) that reviewers are sophisticated people. All the same, they may have trouble in explaining their way through Alan Sillitoe’s latest novel – if not because they find it mystifying, then because they find it (as it is) more complex than fiction is generally expected to be these days. It asks for the kind of academic explication which its hero would reject contemptuously. Willynilly, that is what it is going to get. For at the heart of the book – it must be said that this organ is surrounded by a thick padding of flesh – is an account, albeit quite unacademic, of the causes and effects of the profession of fiction, the problems that give rise to storytelling, and the problems that storytelling gives rise to.

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