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3.11.09

THE CRACK - NOVEMBER 09 BOOK REVIEWS



Book of the Month:

Common Words and the Wandering Star
Keith Armstrong, University of Sunderland Press, £7.95
Jack Common (1903-1968) was born in Newcastle, and is best known today for his autobiographical novel, ‘Kiddar's Luck’, detailing his early life growing up on the back streets of Heaton. I say “best known today” but, as a literary figure, he has perhaps been better known as a friend of George Orwell. Like Orwell, Common’s political leanings were socialist in nature but unlike his much more feted friend, he could genuinely claim to be working class. However, the difficulties Common felt between staying true to his roots, while also pursing a career away from Newcastle, among the metropolitan literati, would lead to a certain amount of tension. And it’s this dichotomy that informs much of the thrust of this excellent biography. Armstrong (also from Heaton) traces Common’s path from his self-taught beginnings, through to his leaving Newcastle and onto his work writing for The Adelphi (a leftist magazine) and his friendship with Orwell. And in his readings of his work, Armstrong forcefully makes the case that Common deserves to be seen as a literary voice of considerable merit in his own right, and not just a footnote in Orwell’s life. RM

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