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Dreaming To Some Purpose: The Autobiography of Colin Wilson Hardcover – 26 May 2004
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"Wilson admits that "being alive is grimly hard work". Dreaming to Some Purpose is a good argument that the reward is worth the effort." (Independent on Sunday)
"Books, sex and the meaning of life- a satisfying richness" (Literary Review)
"One of the great figures of literature whose importance will one day be recognised" (Sunday Times)
Inside the Outsider - Colin Wilson returns to the subject of his million-selling bookSee all Product description
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In this book, he explores his ideas and thoughts with depth, and a great deal of insight. As he talks about his life, you can see a pattern to his development as a writer and an individual. He is also very honest, and this in some ways reminds me of Kerouac. As Kerouac himself said, what you keep secret is what the reader really wants to know about. In this way, Wilson explores his views on psychology and sexuality in a very engaging and lucid manner. It is very easy to bring up images in your mind of all sorts of situations that he describes.
The main criticism would be the somewhat dry and rational take on life that Wilson seems to hold. But even here, Wilson is self-aware enough to discuss this, and highlight moments in his life when he has had to come to terms with himself. So, overall a very illuminating and easy to read book that will be a worthwhile addition to any collection of original thinkers.
So Wilson's autobiography is all about his ideas, but as seen through the events of his own life which, really, is the most logical context in which to present them. Regarding Wilson's work in general, I sometimes find this constant harping on about one thing can give me a sort of mental indigestion because, when it comes down to it, Wilson's real 'message' is not best communicated by his theories about 'Faculty X' (an unfortunately 50s B-movie term), the 'St Neot Margin', the 'pen technique' for focussing consciousness, and so on - all of which are covered in this (and almost every other) Wilson volume, often by what I find to be an unsatisfactory use of illustrating metaphors - but his essential optimism and fascination with the subjects he covers, something which makes his writing extremely lively and moreish - I knew, buying this book, I was setting myself up for a week of compulsive reading. So really, if you like Wilson's work, you'll know what to expect and find it here in bucketloads, and if you don't know Wilson's work but are intrigued, this will be a good introduction.
A slight quibble is that the book could have been better edited: the very first page has an incomplete sentence, and there are a few other missing words and proof-reading errors throughout, though not enough to detract from the pleasure of reading; also, Wilson repeats a few of his anecdotes more than once, but this is by far the only evidence of his turning into a doddery old man. That said, one of the more revelatory parts of the book was its look into the life of a jobbing professional writer, and Wilson's incredible work ethic and constant output are more than enough of an excuse for a rough edge or two in this otherwise excellent book.
As to the life lived: Wilson's strong self-belief and sorely-tried optimism pushed him up from dreary and potentially mind-numbing beginnings, through years of virtual homelessness, to achieve his dream of becoming a writer only to find it was not, at first, all he expected, and from there went on to achieve a more liveable balance. On the way there are plenty of interesting anecdotes about literary personalities including Henry Miller, A N Wilson, the other 'Angry Young Men', and so on. Full of interest, and well worth a read.
Everything in this book is fascinating: Colin's Leicester working class background, his early love of books and writing, the labouring jobs and the hard struggle to become a writer. The "beatnik" days and his stint as an Anarchist speaker at Hyde Park Corner add youthful colour. Relationships, especially his first Leicester teenage love and his two marriages, are described with realistic detail and a lot of sensitivity. He brings a wholesomeness to his treatment of love, sexuality and intimate relationships that is all too rare in contemporary literature.
Colin's early "Outsider" fame at just 24 years of age brings its own trials but his hard school integrity, his hard work and ceaselessly enquiring mind, his sense of humour and philosophy of life enable him to carry on successfully to date. As well as Colin's own unique story and account of the development of his ideas, I greatly enjoyed the vivid critical insights he provides into the minds and lives of famous authors who he came to know personally, such as Camus, Henry Miller, Graham Greene and John Braine.
I had forgotten what a great living English writer we have in Colin Wilson with his uniquely accessible genius. Reading this marvellous autobiography has inspired me to order a selection of his other works listed at Amazon, some re-reads for me like The Outsider and some of his other books of ideas that I have missed.
Whatever you're opinion of Mr Wilson, he has had an incredibly interesting life. He has an awful lot to say and it's always worth listening to. A very honest insight into his own life, you can't fail to warm to him. A truly extraordinary man. Most of us amble along letting life happen to us, I rather think Mr wilson has made his own life and has lived it well. As with many great talents, I have the feeling that he wont really be appreciated, until he is no longer with us.
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