Book Review

Look Back In Anger by John Osborne

further disintegration as i read a play that hasn't aged well

What a boon to be beyond the age of angry young men

Written, I believe, on March 21st. (Apologies for getting angry without noticing the irony.)

It’s been ages since I read a play, but when I recently saw this gorgeous 1960s Faber edition of a “modern classic” that I’d neither read nor seen performed, I had to have it.

I had to.

I bought it.

I paid for it with real money, that thing we used to get in exchange for our labour before the virus closed down economics.

I mean, I say that, I’m still employed but only probably for like three or four more days. Psychologically, I’m prepared, though economically I’m (of course) not…

I’ll just keep reading. And if I’m reading and blogging and actually unemployed, I’ll start reading and blogging and trying to figure out how to get money, make bank, stay afloat.

Let’s see what happens, but as I am without shame I’m sure I’ll survive, unless the virus gets me! Hahaha.

///

Look Back In Anger is a 1950s play famously all about “angry young men”, and if you – like me twelve hours ago – are ignorant of its contents beyond that phrase, it does exactly what is promised and nothing more.

Reading Look Back In Anger sixty-something years on, it’s difficult to understand what at all about this was meant to be profound.

OK, maybe there had never been “working class intellectuals” portrayed at fucking Sloane Square’s fucking Royal Court Theatre before, but “working class” 20-something men who read all the broadsheets, have a university education, have married a distinctly middle class woman and choose to live close to the poverty line are not “authentic working class voices”.

What I had hoped for when I opened Look Back In Anger was a slice of life from a different era, but what I actually got was a timeless piece of lads’ writing about a lad who’s clever but directionless, basically like myself and most of my fellow grammar school friends when we were the age of the characters in the play.

Fuck, we must have been fucking tiresome in our mid-twenties, all of us depressed, over-educated provincials with our rich London girlfriends, our functional alcoholism, our mild cocaine habits, our full heads of thick hair and our contempt, our absolute contempt, for everything.

There’s a reason why “angry young man” writing is castigated: it’s shit, it’s self-defeating and it’s self-aggrandising.

Being angry not because you hate the system but because you’re not very good at it is really stupid.

Like all the fucking right wingers begging for government hand outs right now, in corona time. No, Tories: an emergency should be the test of your principles. Your whole fucking deal, right wingers, is that people don’t get help, regardless of their need. It’s the bad times now, for everyone, everyone is needy, so the fucking banks and the fucking airlines and the fucking landlords shouldn’t be asking for the fucking hand outs that they are inevitably going to get.

It is fucking hypocritical to hate on the state but then expect to be able to rely on it. Surely it should be one or the other, right? “Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor,” innit.

///

Society has been scalped, but not yet killed; the arm, the shoulders, the leg have been flayed, but there’s medical attention trying to keep the heart pumping, but the heart’s the bit that’s fucking rotten.

The capitalist system is on the ropes, and everyone who isn’t blinded by affluence (or the false potential of it!) can see it: but will things change? Will enough normies realise the opportunity pandemic affords and make the changes necessary to return essential services to state control? To strip back the increasing class divides brought out by obscene property prices? No, lol, of course they won’t. I don’t believe anything will change,

In America the moron voters have basically shored up a rival presidential candidate who guarantees another term for Trump, and in the UK the moron public and the moron parliament have guaranteed a spread of the COVID that will decimate society, especially the people on the peripheries of society who have an interest in the BBC Radio 2 jingle-style hits of the Stereophonics.

Still, I’m no longer young but I’m still kinda angry (and alas a man) so I’m having the time of my life.

The coronavirus pandemic is boom time for the mentally ill: like in that Sandra Bullock movie with the guy from Rev in, I can see.

The catastrophising and fear of going outdoors and the anxiety about interacting with people and the persistent thoughts that society is tenuous are the feelings that make sense now.

Finally.

My day-to-day feelings match the horror of the real world. I am together, I am at one.

I won’t look back in anger, I will look forward with… familiarity.

This is the world I’ve long felt like I was living in.

A world that is a mess. Welcome.

1 comment on “Look Back In Anger by John Osborne

  1. Pingback: The Years by Annie Ernaux – Triumph Of The Now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: