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William Cooper Biography - William Cooper Comments:

life scenes novel people

(1972) I don't know that I specially believe in artists making statements about their own work. An artist's work is his statement. And that's that. The rest is for other people to say. Perhaps a writer whose original statement has turned out obscure may feel it useful to present a second that's more comprehensible—in that case I wonder why he didn't make the second one first.

Speaking for myself, Scenes from Provincial Life seems to me so simple, lucid, attractive, and funny that anyone who finds he can't read it probably ought to ask himself: "Should I be trying to read books at all? Wouldn't it be better to sit and watch television or something?" I write about the real world and real people in it. And I stick pretty close to what I've had some experience of. That's why Scenes from Metropolitan Life, which is also simple, lucid, attractive and funny, was suppressed. Scenes from Married Life, makes the third of a trilogy. Albert Woods and Memoirs of a New Man are about goings-on in the world of science and technology; You Want the Right Frame of Reference in the world of arts—they have an added touch of wryness and malice. An unusual marriage is the core of Young People and of Disquiet and Peace, the former set in the provinces in the '30s, the latter in Edwardian upperclass London—its small group of admirers thinks it's a beautiful book. The Ever-Interesting Topic is about what happens when you give a course of lectures on sex to a boarding school full of boys: what you'd expect. Shall We Ever Know? is a day-by-day account of a most surprising and mystifying murder trial, a kidnapping for ransom in which no trace whatsoever of the body was ever found, and two men were found guilty of murder.

(1981) Love on the Coast, my only novel to be set outside England, is about some former "flower children" in San Francisco who are working their way back into society by running an "experimental" theater. And You're Not Alone is the diary of a London doctor, a retired GP of some distinction, to whom people come to confide their sexual quirks—as a start he tells them they are not alone.

(1986) In 1981 the 30-year suppression of Scenes from Metropolitan Life ended, allowing the trilogy to be published complete. The three novels fit together thus: Provincial Life—Boy won't marry Girl; Metropolitan Life—same Girl now won't marry Boy; Married Life—Boy meets another Girl and marries happily every after. In 1983 I published Scenes from Later Life as a companion volume to the trilogy, with the characters in their sixties and seventies, learning to cope with old age—in the final chapter I can make you laugh and make you cry within seven pages.

(1991) For my next novel I decided to make a change and embark on obvious satire. I completed a first draft which needed quite a lot of work, and two things happened which led me to put it aside. The first was a long drawn-out personal tragedy, on which I was persuaded to do a piece for Granta about the last stages—the most intimate thing I have ever written. The second was a friend's suggestion which caught my fancy, that I should try my hand at autobiography (from which I had previously had an aversion). I decided to write down things I could remember happening between the ages of 2 and 17 just as they came into my head—pure reminiscence unsullied by "research," From Early Life, short and delightful. And then I came back to my new departure, the satirical novel called Immortality at Any Price. The jacket by Willie Rushton discloses its nature—my response to a most wounding comment once made by an American reviewer: "Who wants to read a novel by a nice guy?" Well! …

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