The subject of this sparkling autobiography will probably be unfamiliar to many American readers. His story, however, is not only a vivid introduction to a most entertaining writer but is an eloquent version of a narrative which has a more general interest. This narrative, which is also to be found in the novels of the eminent literary critic, Raymond Williams, deals with the cultural destiny of the Welsh during this century.
Gwyn Thomas (1913-1981) was born in a poverty-ridden mining community in South Wales. The only means of escaping a dangerous and debilitating life in the mines was by means of education. Thomas won a scholarship to Oxford. Yet despite his subsequent success as a playwright, novelist, and television personality, Thomas never felt fully assimilated into metropolitan English culture. The manner in which A FEW SELECTED EXITS sublimates the tension inherent in the author’s development is one of its main interests as a cultural document. In addition, Thomas provides some revealing glimpses of London’s Royal Court Theater during the early 1960’s and of English television during the same period.
Rather than the story of a life as such, A FEW SELECTED EXITS is the depiction of a temperament. Most readers will be too diverted by the author’s digressions, conversational tone, and witty wordplay to dwell on this autobiography’s broader context. In particular, Thomas’s fascination with the eccentricities of ordinary men and women offers his imagination almost unlimited scope for sly humor and stylistic flair. Published to coincide with a Public Broadcasting Service television special, starring Anthony Hopkins as Thomas, A FEW SELECTED EXITS seems bound to stimulate fresh interest in an attractive author and in the literature of his native country.