25 April 2004

Literary Manchester

I got to thinking about the part of the world in which I was born and still live. To me it just feels like 'home' - plain and unexceptional. But when I do a literary roll call of the area, it begins to look quite good.

Not too far north of here Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, her sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre, and their sister Anne wrote Agnes Grey. Just to the west of my studio is Daresbury, the birthplace of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known to us all as Lewis Carroll for his Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Anthony Burgess - now best known for Clockwork Orange (1962) was born in Manchester and attended Xaverian College (where I have recently been working on an online learning project. Just down the road from the university which he and I attended (though not at the same time) lived Elizabeth Gaskell - famous for North and South, one of the seminal 'State of England' novels.

Just outside the University there's still a Victorian postbox (with VR embossed) where it's said that Engels, whilst he was writing The Conditions of the Working Class, posted cheques to Karl Marx in London. The research for Engels' classic was done in the strets which have only recently been knocked down to make way for newly fashionable inner-city loft flat living.

Speaking of the University, George Gissing, author of Grub Street (1891) was also a student here, though he is most famous for having been expelled in 1876 for petty theft. And Thomas de Quincey, the author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822) was born in Manchester and a student of the Grammar School - from which he ran away at the age of seventeen.

A little bit further west, Malcolm Lowry was born on the Wirral peninsula, though he ended up writing his masterpiece Under the Volcano in Mexico.

Walter Greenwood came from Salford, a separate city which is rather curiously bolted on to Manchester like a carbuncular twin. His Love on the Dole is a bite of social realism which captures the poverty and despair of the 1930s.

A very popular childrens' writer Alan Garner lives just south of here, near Alderly Edge where his tales of wizards and magic are set. The area is also the setting for much of UK star footballer Davd Beckham's private life. Alan Garner is probably best known for The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

The Royle Family - Click for details and orders at Amazon.co.uk Only a few hundred yards separates my studio from the birthplace in Stockport of Caroline Aherne, author of the prize-winning TV series The Royal Family. Radical feminist Jeanette Winterson - author of Oranges are Not the Only Fruit - was born in Manchester, though she moved as a child to live in Accrington. There are also plenty of lesser-known contemporary writers living here too. So in terms of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (for which the city is even more famous) - we don't do too badly.

No comments: