LET'S KILL THE TEACHER
Paperback 6" x 9" 407 pages ISBN 978-1-913-1444258 Published November
Alan Dent is a poet,
editor, critic, translator, novelist and short story writer.
His eight volume The Craxton-Langs
and his five volumes of short stories are available from Penniless
its readiness to listen in on the speech of a wide variety of
ordinary, working people, and to give us insights into the texture
of their daily lives, Alan Dent's writing is not merely
unfashionable, it is like very little that is currently being
written (or anyway published.) It does however remind me of that
fine, scandalously neglected American writer, Nelson Algren. Like
Algren, Dent's socialism, while never reductive, is integral to his
vision of what life is and what it could be. And like Algren, Dent
makes satisfying stories out of what happens to happen to the kind
ofpeople whose existence, when it's noticed at all, is for the most
part caricatured or sentimentalised, in other words, Dent testifies
to the value ofCamus's claim that art is nobody's enemy, because it
opens the prisons and gives voice to the sorrows and joys of all.
don't need to travel far to find a story. They're all around you if
you keep your eyes and ears open, which is what a good writer does.
A man comes home from the army, meets the miseries of post-war
Britain, gets a job as a salesman, prospers, marries, opens his own
shop, and then loses everything when he takes a fancy to one of his
assistants. A teacher with high ideals has them challenged by
disruptive pupils. Someone with early ambitions to be an artist is
pushed into a mundane job and a joyless marriage. And a report in a
local newspaper about the death of a woman causes a man to reflect
on their one meeting when they were teenagers, and the fact that
he'd never forgotten her. Everyday stories in ordinary settings.
Alan Dent tells them directly in a way that shows a real concern for
people and their problems.
stories put me in mind of Gissing and Richard Yates - who in their
very different centuries and countries mercilessly exposed the
threadbare materialistic dreams of the middle classes. Neither of
those admirable writers was hugely popular, nor ever, in the glib
sense, populist, but both were true and powerful storytellers.
Dent too is a disabused social critic, moralist and analyst
of human nature, someone who castigates snobbery and hypocrisy with
sardonic often heart-rending honesty. Dent shares their bitter sense
of humour and keen sympathy for all failures and misfits - anyone
trapped by blighted relationships and thwarted ambitions.
Dent's distinctive voice is overdue for discovery and strikes a
highly relevant if unsettling chord in the genteel jungle of
contemporary British literature.