Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Bates Blog


I can't believe I've done all this blogging and not gone on about H.E.Bates. Many will know of him through the adaptations his son filmed of the Larkin novels (as pictured here) starring David Jason, and indeed it is on these books that his fame mostly rests. But Bates is much, much more than this, and is well worth tracking down. I continually go back to his writing, particularly the short stories and novellas, and as a start I would thoroughly recommend The Lighthouse (from Colonel Julian 1951) and The Grass God (from The Nature of Love 1953). H.E.Bates was born in Rushden in 1905 and many of his early stories are set around this Northamptonshire boot and shoe town, and in the neighbouring Ouse Valley. As his work sold he moved to Kent, and it is here that his English war and post-war stories are mainly located. His economic style is perfectly suited to his bucolic story-telling of Hardyesque figures in the landscape, although I think the sun shines more in Bates' Kent than in Hardy's Wessex. I first came across him when many of the stories were televised in the early 70s in a series called Country Matters, but I must confess my interest heightened greatly when my uncle (who knew Bates in his newspaper days) complained to me that the novelist seemed inappropriately obsessed with girls' breasts. I think I ran all the way to the bookshop.

9 comments:

Toby Savage said...

I like a good book cover and mousing around I followed the link from you to 'Retiring Type' and from him to 'The Idler' and found a truly eye-catching cover from Damien Hirst. Lovely. H. E. Bates would have approved. Well. He might in a modern day context.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou Toby, I have now followed the link and need to lie down for a while. But it's certainly worth a tenner just to share Mr.Hirst's thoughts. Bert Bates would have loved it I'm sure, and gone a- rootlin' round his Kent greenhouse for a cucumber or other seductive vegetable.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Peter. Now I'm off to look for Damien Hirst.

A F-A said...

A timely reminder Peter! Apart from the rollicking sexiness of the Larkins, HE Bates has become a bit neglected of late. I think the first of his novels that I read was "Fair stood the wind for France". "Triple Echo" was very intriguing and, although I suspect it's style will look a bit dated now, it was a brave and great film of its time (early 70s?).

Fred Fibonacci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred Fibonacci said...

Alois, I did 'Fair Stood The Wind For France' as a set text at school. Teacher of the day managed to make it deadly dull. Re-reading it a few years ago I found it almost unbearably moving; and completely gripping. Thank you, Peter, for reminding us.

Fred Fibonacci said...

Oops. Submitted same post twice. Not this one; this is a separate post. Wonder if I'll post this one twice?

A F-A said...

Fred, that's a good observation (not the double post one...). Teachers are so good at taking simple, beautifully written stuff, and making it dull. Education (like what we know) may be wasted on the young!

Peter Ashley said...

Triple Echo, the film, famous for a truly malevolent performance from a be-goggled Oliver Reed, standing up in his army tank and against a school radiator, if memory serves me well.