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Horrid Boy

Polly Toynbee

17 April 1980
Mother and Son 
by Jeremy Seabrook.
Gollancz, 189 pp., £6.95, October 1979, 9780575026889
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... Mother and Son for at least one view of that relationship. But for the rest of us, who already know a bit about mothers, most of it comes as less than a revelation. The book is an autobiography of Seabrook’s working-class childhood in Northampton during and just after the war. He was a twin, and the two boys were brought up by their mother, surrounded by aunts. His father, a feckless, flamboyant man ...

On the Dole

Melanie Phillips

15 July 1982
by Jeremy Seabrook.
Quartet, 226 pp., £8.95, February 1982, 0 7043 2325 7
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The Black Economy: how it works, who it works for, and what it costs 
by Arnold Heertje, Margaret Allen and Harry Cohen.
Pan, 158 pp., £1.95, April 1982, 0 330 26765 5
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... It is, as JeremySeabrook says, the similarities that strike you first. There was a dull vacuity in his eyes nowadays; he became listless, hard of hearing, saying ‘Eh?’ when anybody asked him a question. Nothing to do ...
23 January 1986
Now the war is over: A Social History of Britain 1945-51 
by Paul Addison.
BBC/Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 0 563 20407 9
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England First and Last 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 212 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 571 13587 0
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A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class 
by Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook.
Faber, 189 pp., £4.50, October 1985, 0 571 13701 6
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The Issue of War: States, Societies and the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 
by Christopher Thorne.
Hamish Hamilton, 364 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 241 10239 1
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The Hiroshima Maidens 
by Rodney Barker.
Viking, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 670 80609 9
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Faces of Hiroshima: A Report 
by Anne Chisholm.
Cape, 182 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 224 02831 6
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End of Empire 
by Brain Lapping.
Granada, 560 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 246 11969 1
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by Simon Winchester.
Hodder, 317 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 340 33772 9
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... character. Their vitality, like that of the labour movement, signalled the ascent of traditional working-class culture to a summit of influence in the mid-20th century.’ Yet Trevor Blackwell and JeremySeabrook don’t mention sport at all in A World Still to Win, their eloquent but also irritating and unconvincing tract on the ‘reconstruction of the post-war working class’. For them, it seems ...


Patrick Parrinder

20 August 1992
Past Tenses: Essays on Writing, Autobiography and History 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Rivers Oram, 224 pp., £22, June 1992, 1 85489 021 2
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... 1986). At once passionate, meditative and intensely self-reflexive, Landscape set out to challenge the sentimental and moralistic pictures of working-class community associated with Richard Hoggart, JeremySeabrook and Steedman’s particular mentor, Raymond Williams. The childhood Steedman described was not cosy and hospitable but lonely, introverted and largely joyless. Her mother, a Lancashire ...


Anne Sofer: The Silliest Script Ever Written

1 September 1983
... the realists who are urging a complete rethinking of the policy on council housing, recognising that ‘middle-class’ aspirations are here to stay: on the other are the evangelists (exemplified by JeremySeabrook) who feel that the party can only regain its soul if its appeal becomes chiefly a moral, rather than an economic one, so as to re-arouse the sense of sharing the collective solidarity the ...
7 May 1987
Selected Poems 1964-1983 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 262 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14619 8
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Terry Street 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, November 1986, 0 571 09713 8
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Selected Poems 1968-1983 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 109 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 571 14603 1
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Essential Reading 
by Peter Reading and Alan Jenkins.
Secker, 230 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 436 40988 7
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by Peter Reading.
Secker, 40 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 436 40989 5
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... unvarnished poems of Northern suburbia: and now the inventory of working-class clothes, foods and pastimes has a certain period interest. This is the beginning of the end of that culture mourned by JeremySeabrook among others:                                       A landlord stares.All he has worked for is being destroyed.The slum rent-masters are at one with ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras

24 January 2019
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... soldiers in Iraq; the ease with which most newspapers and politicians use military metaphors and support armed conflicts; and the efforts to shout down and delegitimise those who don’t, such as Jeremy Corbyn – all these are signs of a country that has come to see military service, especially in wartime, as an extraordinary occupation, which should not be scrutinised too hard. Helen Parr’s book ...
22 January 1981
... important than doctrine. The ethos embodies working-class memories of suffering and mutual sustenance, the experience of fraternity, suffused with hope for a better future – the traditions of which JeremySeabrook writes so well and movingly. In Debts of Honour Michael Foot acknowledges his debt to lgnazio Silone, and quotes him revealingly: ‘I cannot conceive of Socialism tied to any particular ...

It Migrates to Them

Jeremy​ Harding: The Coming Megaslums

8 March 2007
Planet of Slums 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 228 pp., £15.99, March 2006, 1 84467 022 8
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Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 228 pp., £12.99, March 2007, 978 1 84467 132 8
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... will get worse, ‘within and between cities of different sizes and economic specialisations’. He is troubled, too, by urban encroachment on what’s left of rural livelihoods. He cites the work of JeremySeabrook on Penang fishermen, their homes cut off from the sea by a large highway and their fishing grounds polluted by the spread of urbanisation: the next generation ended up in Japanese-owned ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel

22 June 1995
Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... the corruption of the innocent which takes its cue from Richard Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy and which is apt to picture every form of mass consumption as degenerate. Here – as in the writings of JeremySeabrook – it is the prosperity of the working class, rather than, or as well as, the poverty, which is the focus of anxiety. In any of these literatures, the North of England is apt to fare badly ...


Raymond Williams

17 April 1986
Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives 
by Carolyn Steedman.
Virago, 164 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 86068 559 4
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... as representing a ‘passivity of emotional life in working-class communities’, where ‘the streets are all the same; nothing changes.’ More sharply, Carolyn Steedman also chal-challenges JeremySeabrook’s Working-Class Childhood, where a similar passivity is also the lost solidarity of the ‘old working class’, by contrast with post-war ‘materialism’, but which in the very form of ...

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