Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

This Sporting Life is not only Storey’s first novel but also the first of three successive books which he organized around a unifying concept. Here, a minimum of biographical information is in order: Born the son of a miner, Storey studied at London’s Slade School of Art and, to subsidize his student years, played for four seasons with the Leeds Rugby League Club. In a November 28, 1963, interview with The Times, he indicated the directly autobiographical use of these unusually mixed experiences in his initial novels:

I . . . conceived a sequence of four novels which would constitute a sort of campaign for reintegrating myself. In the first I tried to isolate and come to terms with the physical side in the footballer Machin.

In Storey’s second novel, Flight into Camden (also published in 1960), he has another first-person narrator, this time a woman, designed to represent the spiritual, feminine side of his nature. In his next, most ambitious novel, Radcliffe (1963), he brings his two halves into an incompatible encounter through the troubled, homosexual relationship between Leonard Radcliffe, an impoverished aesthete of genteel background, and Victor Tolson, a vigorous workingman. Storey has projected a fourth novel, “the key work,” in which he intends to unite the body-soul conflict in one protagonist’s mind and personality, though he has...

(The entire section is 512 words.)