David Malcolm Storey is renowned as both a novelist and a playwright. His works are awaited in Great Britain as major statements on his times by a writer whom many consider to be the best of his generation. Born the third son of a coal miner, Storey was reared on a large urban housing estate in the provincial north of England. His life was complicated from the first by the fact that an elder brother died before his birth, leaving his mother in the grips of a suicidal grief. (Another brother, Anthony, is a minor novelist known for his melodramatic mixing of theology and eroticism.)
The young Storey’s sense of being an outsider was exacerbated by his being educated out of his class at Wakefield’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and by his decision, at age seventeen, to become an artist. This determination involved him in a class and family struggle. Two years at Wakefield College of Art were made more desolate by his teachers’ pressuring him to become a commercial artist. Next, disappointed by his failure to train for a professional life, his parents refused to sign his application form to the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Then, in order to support himself fully while in school, Storey played professionally for Leeds Rugby League Club for four seasons. In a 1982 interview he commented on the psychological strain of living in two opposing worlds: “When I played football the other players thought I was homosexual, and at the Slade, they thought I was a yob [hooligan].” Storey’s move to London was final; his marriage to Barbara Rudd Hamilton in 1956 produced two sons and two daughters. His painting won for him several prizes, but it was to writing that Storey dedicated himself after leaving art school.
Storey’s Leeds experiences are evident in This Sporting Life, the story of professional rugby footballer Arthur Machin’s tender but abortive affair with his downtrodden landlady, and his discovery that material “success” (as defined by both the working and the middle classes of England in the newly prosperous late 1950’s) cannot bring a sense of wholeness of belonging. The novel was the eighth that Storey had written (he has continued to write far more than he publishes) and went the rounds of more than a dozen publishers over a four-year period before it was finally accepted. Similarly, Storey’s first play, The Restoration of Arthur...
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