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John Braine Bibliography

Allsop, Kenneth. The Angry Decade: A Survey of the Cultural Revolt of the Nineteen-Fifties. London: Peter Owen, 1958. Although this book was written at the end of the very decade it discusses, it remains the single best study of that period in British literary history. Its chapter on Braine uses interviews with the author.

Braine, John. Writing a Novel. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1974. Braine’s own explanation of how he crafts fiction, the result of reflections on his teaching of creative writing, provides insights into the development of Room at the Top. Essential reading, in which Braine includes examples of how he planned and revised this novel.

Frazer, G. S. The Modern Writer and His World. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964. Includes a highly negative evaluation of Room at the Top and, hence, is useful as a counterweight to more laudatory views. Frazer finds in Braine’s work a cheap style, inadequate understanding of the characters of Joe Lampton and Susan Brown, and silliness in thinking that a thirty-four-year-old woman is decrepit.

Lee, James W. John Braine. New York: Twayne, 1968. A balanced survey of Braine’s background and upbringing in the north of England and a consideration of the four novels that he had published by 1968. The chapter on Room at the Top is a good analysis of the novel’s themes and literary style. The only book devoted wholly to a study of the author.

Sinfield, Alan. Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. A survey, written from a left-wing perspective, of the relationships between political change and literary production in Britain since 1945. It includes a chapter on left-wing writing.

Angry Young Men, various British novelists and playwrights who emerged in the 1950s and expressed scorn and disaffection with the established sociopolitical order of their country. Their impatience and resentment were especially aroused by what they perceived as the hypocrisy and mediocrity of the upper and middle classes.

The Angry Young Men were a new breed of intellectuals who were mostly of working class or of lower middle-class origin. Some had been educated at the postwar red-brick universities at the state’s expense, though a few were from Oxford. They shared an outspoken irreverence for the British class system, its traditional network of pedigreed families, and the elitist Oxford and Cambridge universities. They showed an equally uninhibited disdain for the drabness of the postwar welfare state, and their writings frequently expressed raw anger and frustration as the postwar reforms failed to meet exalted aspirations for genuine change.

The trend that was evident in John Wain’s novel Hurry on Down (1953) and in Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis was crystallized in 1956 in the playLook Back in Anger, which became the representative work of the movement. When the Royal Court Theatre’s press agent described the play’s 26-year-old author John Osborne as an “angry young man,” the name was extended to all his contemporaries who expressed rage at the persistence of class distinctions, pride in their lower-class mannerisms, and dislike for anything highbrow or “phoney.” When Sir Laurence Olivier played the leading role in Osborne’s second play, The Entertainer (1957), the Angry Young Men were acknowledged as the dominant literary force of the decade.

Their novels and plays typically feature a rootless, lower-middle or working-class male protagonist who views society with scorn and sardonic humour and may have conflicts with authority but who is nevertheless preoccupied with the quest for upward mobility.

Among the other writers embraced in the term are the novelists John Braine (Room at the Top, 1957) and Alan Sillitoe (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, 1958) and the playwrights Bernard Kops (The Hamlet of Stepney Green, 1956) and Arnold Wesker (Chicken Soup with Barley, 1958). Like that of the Beat movement in the United States, the impetus of the Angry Young Men was exhausted in the early 1960s.

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