67. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Angus Wilson (1956)

Angus Wilson is one of the many authors on this list who ought to be household names, but at the moment he seems to be sinking back into obscurity. I’ve no idea why. Nearly all of his novels are great, and a couple of them – this and No Laughing Matter – are masterpieces. Wilson’s part of that post-War generation who wrote black comedy about issues that were just coming out of the closet – particuarly, in this case, homosexuality. And, like Colin MacInnes, he doesn’t always present it in a rosy light, so I suppose he never became part of the ‘liberation discourse’. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes is a hilarious, unsettling story about an unhappy middle-aged historian, Gerald Middleton, struggling to deal with his crazy, disintegrating family. And it contains some of the funniest dialogue ever committed to paper, especially from the low characters like the landlady, Mrs Salad. ‘The stuff the girls put on their fingernails now… Like a lot of old birds giving the glad in the Circus or the York Road, Waterloo, more likely. Trollopy lot.’ I say this to myself every time I walk along York Road but sadly it’s no longer trollopy at all.


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