Monday, November 16, 2015

"Up The Junction" by Nell Dunn

"Up the Junction" by Nell Dunn

Reading Nell Dunn's collection of short stories "Up The Junction" is like being buried in a coffin full of 12''' Smiths record covers.  One can taste the lukewarm cream tea or a dark bitter right off the page.  For me, what these stories, published in 1963, do is  tell the tale, because of the rich London language and accents.   I know nothing of Dunn's life or where she came from, but I read that she came from a higher class, and chose to live in Battersea and Clapham Junction, which at the time of these stories was a total working class area of London.  "Up The Junction" is very location orientated, and through Dunn's eyes and writing, one gets the harsh life of its citizens who live in those two areas of London.  

Sex runs through these narrations of women and guys on the make, but it is not exactly 'happy' sex or even 'sexy' sex, but more of a way of passing time between working, and doing a touch of crime.   Without a doubt, a great London book, that is far away from the world of PG Wodehouse as possible.  Some of the images are shocking, for instance an aborted baby flushed down the toilet, but I don't feel it was done for shock purposes, but almost a journalistic touch.  

There is a lot of music in the background as well.  Before the Fab Four made their appearance, here you get snippets of pre-beatle pop lyrics with a mixture of American soul.  There's work, but then there is dancing, which becomes a mating call of sorts.  Without a doubt, "Up The Junction" is the largest and most intense "kitchen sink realism" set of stories ever. 

- Tosh Berman

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