PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
PNR266 Now Available
The latest issue of PN Review is now available to read online. read more
Most Read... Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing ‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing
(PN Review 236)
Next Issue Stav Poleg Running Between Languages Jeffrey Meyers on Mr W.H. (Auden) Miles Burrows The Critic as Cleaning Lady Timothy Ades translates Brecht, Karen Leeder translates Ulrike Almut Sandig
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This article is taken from PN Review 55, Volume 13 Number 5, May - June 1987.

On Stanley Middleton J.M. Cohen

Stanley Middleton has published twenty-five novels since 1958, which have generally been well received by the critics. Indeed with Holiday of 1974 he shared the Booker Prize. But it was not until last year that any of his books except that one appeared in paperback. Since I believe him to be one of our best novelists now writing, I propose briefly to account for the static nature of his reputation and then to consider his very real merits. For this purpose I will examine three of his books: Ends and Means (1977), Blind Understanding (1982) and his most recent, An After Dinner Sleep of this year (1986).

Middleton is a novelist in a very English tradition that has concentrated on contrasts of character drawn against a recognizable background. Its concern is with the interplay of persons and their social circumstances. In this tradition are Defoe, Smollet, Jane Austen, Dickens in Hard Times, George Eliot in Middlemarch and Felix Holt, Mrs Gaskell in North and South, Arnold Bennett and the unjustly neglected Gilbert Cannan in his Manchester novels. It is a tradition which has gone underground in the last fifty years, submerged by a dozen fashions from 'stream of consciousness' to 'magic realism'. Stanley Middleton has brought it back to the surface. Yet his manner can easily be dismissed as old-fashioned.

Middleton's characters are life-size, no more. Their problems are of personal relations, marriage, paternity, profession, artistic creation and, in the most recent novels, of facing ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image