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This Sporting Life, David Storey’s first—and still most widely read—novel, appeared in 1960; it won the Macmillan Fiction Award and was later made into a successful film with a screenplay by Storey (1963). Storey also adapted his In Celebration to film in 1975. Flight into Camden, which received both the John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award, also reached print in 1960. Among Storey’s many other novels are Pasmore, published in 1972 and winner of the Faber Memorial Prize; the autobiographical Saville (1976), awarded the prestigious Booker Prize; and Present Times (1984). Storey has also written Edward (1973), a book for children, and Storey’s Lives: Poems, 1951-1991 (1992).

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Achievements

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David Storey’s writing has won several awards. His first play, The Restoration of Arnold Middleton, won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright (1967), and The Contractor received both the London Theatre Critics Award for Best Play (1970) and the Writer of the Year Award from the Variety Club of Great Britain (1971). Home was a critical success on both sides of the Atlantic, garnering the Evening Standard Drama Award, a Tony Award nomination, and an award from the New York Drama Critics (1971). Two years later he again received an award from the New York Drama Critics and another Tony nomination, this time for The Changing Room.

Other literary forms

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David Storey began as a novelist, but when publishers repeatedly rejected his first novel he looked to the theater, which he had visited infrequently. Storey took a nine-year break from publishing novels from 1963 to 1972. In 1966 his first fully produced play, The Restoration of Arnold Middleton, was performed in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Traverse Theatre. Its critical success encouraged him to write In Celebration (pr., pb. 1969), The Contractor (pr. 1969), Home (pr., pb. 1970), and finally within that time period The Changing Room (pr. 1971). After this period, in Storey’s work the two genres of prose fiction and drama are intrinsically joined through their themes, characters, and similarity of situations. Although his novels have received more critical acclaim, Storey continued writing and producing plays for many years; only in the 1990’s did he return to writing fiction principally.

Achievements

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David Storey is a member of the limited group of writers who have received critical recognition and awards in two distinct genres, fiction and drama. Storey was honored with the Macmillan Fiction Award for his first published novel, This Sporting Life. The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize followed two years later for Flight into Camden, and his third novel, Radcliffe, won the Somerset Maugham Award. After 1963, Storey stopped publishing fiction and switched to writing scripts for the theater, and his plays also soon garnered him awards. He earned the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright for his first production, The Restoration of Arnold Middleton, and he received the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play three times within a span of less than five years—in 1969 for The Contractor; in 1970 for Home; and for The Changing Room in 1971. In 1971 he also won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play of the Year for Home. Storey’s dramas Home and The Changing Room were both nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, in 1971 and 1973, respectively. The 1970’s was a time of critical acclaim and high recognition for Storey, both for his dramatic works and for his novels. Storey’s Pasmore was short-listed for the 1972 Booker Prize for Fiction, and the novel won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 1973. In 1976, Storey received the highest British honor for a novel when he was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction for his sixth novel, Saville.

Discussion Topics

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In what ways did Great Britain undergo radical social changes in the years following World War II? How are these changes reflected in the plays and novels of David Storey?

Compare the way family is depicted in Saville and in In Celebration.

The game of professional rugby figures prominently in at least two of Storey’s works, This Sporting Life and The Changing Room. How does Storey use the game as a way of creating a contrast with the larger world?

Compare and contrast Storey’s plays and his novels. Does writing for the stage require a different approach than writing prose fiction?

Why do Colin in Saville and Arthur in This Sporting Life fail to create enduring or meaningful relationships with the women they love?

Bibliography

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Hutchings, William. The Plays of David Storey: A Thematic Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. The first full-length study devoted solely to Storey’s work for the theater, Hutchings’s valuable book provides detailed critical analyses of each drama. Hutchings sees Storey as stressing the importance of physical work and daily rituals to help the individual achieve a sense of community in a modern society that has been radically desacralized by industrialism and technology. Contains an extensive bibliography.

Hutchings, William, ed. David Storey: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1992. The essays on Storey’s plays concern the role of the artist, the depiction of women, the relationship between family and madness, and the use of comedy. Hutchings provides an introduction, a chronology, and an extensive bibliography dealing with Storey’s dramas. One of the only collections devoted exclusively to Storey’s dramatic output.

Kerensky, Oleg. The New British Drama: Fourteen Playwrights Since Osborne and Pinter. New York: Taplinger, 1977. Kerensky focuses on the conflict between working-class parents and well-educated middle-class sons in Storey’s plays, wherein fidelity to naturalistic detail often takes precedence over plot. He devotes his lengthiest comments to Mother’s Day, Storey’s negatively reviewed farce about English domestic life.

Liebman, Herbert. The Dramatic Art of David Storey: The Journey of a Playwright. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Liebman provides some biographical information, comments on the ties between Storey’s novels and his films, and groups the plays into three categories for purposes of analysis: plays of madness, plays of work, and family plays. He also provides a selected bibliography.

Quigley, Austin E. “The Emblematic Structure and Setting of David Storey’s Plays.” Modern Drama 22, no. 3 (1979): 259-276. In response to conflicting assessments over whether Storey should be regarded as a traditional or an experimental playwright, Quigley probes the basis for Storey’s originality as a dramatist. He proposes that it rests in his uncanny ability to reconceive conventional theatrical devices as “structuring images” that contain the plays’ themes.

Randall, Phyllis R. “Division and Unity in David Storey.” In Essays on Contemporary British Drama, edited by Hedwig Bock and Albert Wertheim. Munich: Max Hueber Verlag, 1981. Randall sees as major themes in Storey’s writing the disintegration of both the individual and the family or social unit, and “the struggle to make life work on both the external and internal levels.” The dramas, she argues, accept the impossibility of full integration, often ironically undercutting the spiritual values. Concludes with a useful chart indicating the interrelationships between Storey’s novels and plays.

Taylor, John Russell. David Storey. London: Longman, 1974. This pamphlet, written by one of the principal authorities on contemporary British drama as part of the British council’s Writers and Their Work series, charts the connections between Storey’s novels and plays up through 1973. Taylor emphasizes the tension between the physical and the spiritual in the fiction and the blending of realistic with symbolic or allegorical levels in the dramas. Includes a photograph of Storey as a frontispiece.

Worth, Katharine J. Revolutions in Modern English Drama. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1972. In brief yet sensitive remarks, Worth explores Storey’s use of physical objects as a focal point and his expert handling of space (stage space in The Contractor and screen space in the television adaptation of Home). Worth believes that audiences relish the process through which space is transformed, and the characters too, as they participate in fleeting moments of communion.

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