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England's John Wain, a notable quondam Angry Young Man of letters, offers here some remembrances- generally sensitive, spare, sure- up to the age of 35; a ""symbolic"" sign, says Wain, since that is the half-way mark in the average threescore years and ten. Symbolic or not, the self-portrait proves a rewarding commentary on Wain the man, Wain the writer, and the preferences and problems which have summed up his set or era. As a child he was a sorry sight, growing up during the '30's in one of those pastoral/industrial towns with Blake's ""dark Satanic mills"" on one side and the entrenched middle class on the other. School he hated and no wonder: bully boys, heartless headmasters, ""nerve-ridden little virgins"", back-handed benefits; to preserve himself he played the class jester. But the Oxford of the WW II years was different: there amidst middle aged bizarre scholars like Myerstein, (who was, oddly enough, his buddy), and dons like Lewis, Williams, Leavis and Empson, he entered a real forcing-house of the intellect. And thus the future with books was shaped. There are scute, amusing analyses of assorted knock-about neurotics, inside-stuff on the birth of ""The Movement"" (novelist Amis, poet Larkin, critic Alvarez), the brutal in-fighting of the professional literati, a short, sour elegy on the failure of his first, marriage, plus a stinging little letter to USSR culture-mongers (left-winging Wain went, saw and returned-disillusioned and disgusted). However, one drawback: those spatterings of tea-and-crumpet narcissism and pub house whining; they make, at times, a sharp style go shifty-eyed and soggy.

Publisher: St Martin's Press