on 23 June 2012
In Pasmore, David Storey needs only 170 pages to snare his reader into a gripping narrative that plunges deep into the turbulent existential crisis of a history lecturer. Written in the third person, it explores the protagonist's concomitant sensations of attachment and alienation, his indecisive and irrational behaviour, to produce an enthralling novel that exudes the crushing emotional power that also permeated "This Sporting Life", his debut masterpiece.
"Pasmore" is about loneliness, division, fear and ultimately loss of self and identity. The trigger of the instability that leads to an apparent transitional phase seems introspection about social class during a sabbatical. However, the story also touches on themes like morality, emotional dependency and the responsibilities and commitment of love. Though Colin Pasmore is yearning for wholeness his gloomy action or absence thereof leads to increasing fragmentation. While the relationship with Helen is merely a catalyst to speed up a process which results in a rift with his family and parents, the ensuing redemption remains unconvincing. Instead of a transition it could be the onset of a major clinical depression or more.
Storey employs fine language that reeks of the North to build up the tension of the unfolding drama. One can almost smell the smoke of the coal fires. In a swift and Jazzy rhythm, an exquisite visual style, not unlike Gogol, he forges riveting lines into eloquent paragraphs. Pasmore's mood is elegantly intertwined with impressions of the environment in which he lives out his tragedy. For instance, the approach to his parents' house is heralded with lines like: "Trees, like squat spiders, slid out of the wilderness of waste that began to open up on either side. Rows of factories and chimneys covered the horizon. It was like moving in a cavern. A dark and massive gloom settled round the train."
Like in "Saville" and "In Celebration", through Pasmore runs an uncomfortable undercurrent that scrutinizes the hazards of yielding to the pressures of social normative expectations. Thus Storey cunningly confronts us with the question whether we can ever escape from the gravitational pull of class origin. This brilliantly written short novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1972 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1973. I found it fascinating and enlightening literature, another David Storey must read.
on 28 June 2013
It's time for David Storey to be put back where he belongs - at the very forefront of post-WW2 novelists. When you've had your fill of literary gimmicks and look-at-me prose, read 'Pasmore' or 'Flight into Camden'. Storey's books are characterised by strong, clear, economic writing that tries to get to the heart of ordinary people and their dilemmas: no one has an exotic disease or discovers an ability to travel through time.
Set mostly in the not-yet-fashionable boroughs of Camden/Islington in the early 70s, 'Pasmore' is a story of a thirty-something man's descent into a fully-fledged breakdown. Colin Pasmore, a history lecturer from a Northern working-class background, is settled with a wife, Kay, and three kids. But paradoxically, he begins to sense an increasing unease about his own security, feeling that it excludes him from 'all the relevant and meaningful experiences of his time.' After starting a desultory affair with a diffident, older woman, Helen, he leaves Kay and then slides wretchedly from one self-destructive incident to another. Pasmore is not a particularly attractive character, so readers looking for a protagonist of that kind are advised to go elsewhere, yet his flailing bewilderment - unromantacised by Storey - is universal and utterly plausible. The supporting cast range from Fowler, a fat, neurotic art dealer, to Pasmore's father, a miner enraged by Pasmore's abandonment of his family. Pasmore becomes a dangling man, stumbling self-pityingly through the narrative before eventually finding a resolution he hardly seems to want or understand. Perhaps these numbed men have become rather stock now, but sparely written, and with penetrating insights into marriage and the often corrosive nature of family and social ties, 'Pasmore' remains a steely, unsentimental examination of a man who has become completely disconnected from his life.
on 25 February 2012
Where are the reviews? This is a British classic; a tremendous book. Pasmore is a great story, sad and gripping, and the prose is flawless. I adore it. Read all of Storey's books, and this one especially.