Sue Townsend (1946-2014)

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Sue Townsend (1946-2014)

Post by Xrds1895 »

RIP the author of Adrian Mole after a short illness.

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Re: Sue Townsend (1946-2014)

Post by Beaker »

I played Bert Baxter from the Adrian Mole books on stage a couple of years ago.

RIP Sue Townsend and thanks for the beetroot sandwiches.
If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!

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Re: Sue Townsend (1946-2014)

Post by Simon36 »

Adrian Mole was to me something like Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy or Terry Pratchet, familiarity breeding contempt after a while. I always at the time thought that the first ten or so pages of the first Mole book seemed completely out of keeping with the rest of it but now realise that the character is moving from childhood to adolescence and the change in tone reflects this. But recently watching the TV version again I was struck by just how beautifully cast it was: Bill Fraser, Stephen Moore and Freddie Jones etc were all fab. RIP to Sue Townsend.

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Re: Sue Townsend (1946-2014)

Post by RobinCarmody »

Sue Townsend effectively wrote the literary backdrop to my 11-year-old life, a decade after the fact, and the legacy is still cast deep in my mind. Although my main exposure to newspapers at the time (and for some time after) was to the Mail and Telegraph, she gave me a basic understanding of a particular way of seeing Britain, and what had happened to it, which would take many years fully to flower and fully to be understood and grasped (she might not have agreed with the full extent of Bert Baxter's glossing-up of censorship and repression in the name of socialism, but you could tell - although I couldn't quite, when I first read it - that when Bert says that if he were a younger man he would infiltrate into The Sun newspaper and smash the presses up, these words are coming right from their writer's deepest heart).

And it isn't quite as strong a Left-Right split as you might think; Auberon Waugh, the right-wing columnist who most affected my views on what language and rhetoric could do, was a great admirer of Townsend's work (just as he was a close friend and personal ally of Paul Foot). And indeed Townsend's later years sum up the great change in the divisions within British political life; from economic ones to cultural ones which (as can be seen by the seamless transition from Blairite rock'n'rollers to Cameronite ones) largely transcend and have precious little to do with the divisions of the Cold War era. Townsend was at the other end, of course; like her, Adrian Mole was essentially a conservative socialist, and the later books rather embody the problems I faced more and more strongly as hip-hop and grime became my New Left, my cultural studies - could these things really be reconciled with my socialism, my veneration of working-class nobility which, by its nature, depends on hierarchy and order?

The books became, it has to be said, more and more grotesque and less and less convincing; Mole became a cypher for Townsend's own antipathy towards the modern world, an antipathy I had, painfully, to reject. Even if they were intended as (rather overdrawn) metaphors for a world spinning out of objective control, the supporting characters resembled real people less and less, and sometimes the undertone of (however socialist) reaction could become tiresome and enervating. There was a definite sense that she was now writing about an environment outside both her control and understanding, and sometimes it was as if a great humanist and observer was lost outside her natural place and time, more Hoggart than Hall (which is not to detract from the greatness of either Hoggart or Townsend, merely to point out that even great figures have comfort zones and weaknesses). But when she could get back to the fundamentals - as with the observations on UKIP in Weapons of Mass Destruction - it was obvious that underlying feelings very similar to mine were coming right from the most embedded and most important part of her, and they alone are reason enough for me to feel the strongest sadness and the deepest sorrow.

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