Too True, Blake Morrison (1998)

A collection of pieces by one of the UK’s most poetic writers – worth seeking out for the short story and the article about cycling

Granta Pulications 1 862072426 Paperback 237pp £7.99

There is no shortage of cyclists who have turned their hands to writing. Morrison, by contrast is a writer who did not learn to ride a bike until his late twenties. The joy he experiences riding around costal Suffolk is powerfully evoked in this piece – that was originally written for a 1996 BBC radio series ‘Better Than Sex’, and published in a slightly different form to that in this book by The Guardian in July of that year.

Were you trying to persuade a non-cycling friend of the joy of two wheels, it would be hard to find 2,500 more persuasive words. Like many others, Morrison works hard to define what he calls ‘the sensuous, hedonistic, self-forgetful experience’ of riding a bike. It is a glorious incantation, as is his palpable enthusiasm for Suffolk’s lesser known thoroughfares.

Just as good is his tale of the theft of his son’s bike close by their home in south London. It could be taken as a modern-day reworking of De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves.

The bike disappears from close by Morrison’s middle-class home and disappears into a neighbouring dystopian local authority development populated by proletarian grotesques. Trying to do his fatherly duty, Morrison goes through absurd contortions, moral and physical, to retrieve his son’s wheels. It is a telling tale and an all-too-familiar slice of family life in a major metropolis.

Like all collections of journalism, the quality isn’t completely consistent in the rest of the book which ranges over subjects as varied subjects as students, pornography and Alan Bennett. Nonetheless, Morrisson is beyond doubt, a compelling writer. He is at his most riveting when he is mining his own childhood, and there is plenty of that here, whatever his subject.

PS Jan 10

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