When Patrick Hamilton wrote to his brother, Bruce, of the “magnifying influence of beer—the neurotics’ microscope,” he wasn’t blowing smoke; he was faithfully expressing what for him had assumed the knife-sharp form of dogma. For Hamilton, one of the hardest-drinking authors of the twentieth century, there was more in his topped-off flask than the boozy business, though; he deftly mastered an entire worldview of late-’30s and early-’40s London and the precincts his working-class subjects haunted—not just the grubby alcoholism, the evenings of ale and pink gin and whiskey, and the fevered attempts to find an establishment open after last call but also the more plebeian desire for tea at the ABC shops and leviathan Lyons Corner Houses, one of which could seat five thousand teacup-holding Englishmen, their class anxiety served up amid marble staircases and the anodyne twinklings of a for-hire orchestra.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
A brief swoop is all I've had time for with the latest issue of Bookforum, now up online, but Eric Banks has an irresistible-looking piece about Patrick Hamilton, whose novels I am ashamed to say I have never read (but I am going to remedy the situation--and surely Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court is one of the great novel titles of all time?!?):