This Sporting Life Essay - Critical Essays

David Storey

Critical Context

In one sense, Storey’s early novels, particularly This Sporting Life, link his work with that of a group of Angry Young Men—Kingsley Amis, Keith Waterhouse, John Braine, John Osborne, John Wain, Alan Sillitoe—whose fiction and drama revolt against the modernist, poetic experimentalism of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, E. M. Forster, Joyce Cary, and Lawrence Durrell. These protesters stress working-class identifications, despise established conventions, expose the bitterness of class divisions, and have their protagonists squander their lives in devitalized despair, loutish buffoonery, or self-centered money-grubbing.

In a deeper sense, however, Storey not only focuses on the body-soul conflict but also protests, in a way reminiscent of Gustave Flaubert, Anton Chekhov, and D. H. Lawrence, against the violence, shoddiness, vulgarity, and emptiness of most people’s lives in the twentieth century. He has performed distinguished work as a dramatist as well as a novelist, commanding a variation of tones from the matter-of-fact naturalism of This Sporting Life to the somber and complex symbolism of Radcliffe, the highly charged dramatization of familial feelings in such dramas as In Celebration (1969) and The Farm (1973), and the sardonic persiflage of the play Life Class (1974) and the novel A Temporary Life (1973). Though deeply influenced by Lawrence, Storey has staked out his own domain in his depiction of the pained deprivation and extreme mental turmoil of his characters as they struggle to the edge and sometimes fall into the chasm of chaos. While not a major creator in either fiction or drama, Storey is a distinguished writer in both genres who treats a considerable range of profound themes humanely and imaginatively.