The Grass Arena: An Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Riding by Torchlight: A Grass Roots Advocacy for Classical Horsemanship from Arena to Savannah [Hardcover ] The last thing John Healy needs is a tidy snippet of blurb from the likes of me which is a good thing because economy defeats me; I don't know how to be moderate or concise in praise of his startling autobiography `The Grass Arena'. So economy I'll leave to him, a master storyteller with an ear, an eye and a voice that should be the envy of many men with weightier reputations. There is no perceptible distance between the words, which seem to have chosen themselves and the experiences from which they blossomed like a garden of wild flowers. Armed to the teeth with his wit and self-knowledge he takes us to that other place, his grass arena, the one which we pass how many times in any given day, averting our eyes? The one into whose violent clutches we might descend more easily than we dare to contemplate. He is our jaunty, gleeful tour guide and messenger from hell. His fellow combatants, exuberant, murderous and sentimental, by turns touchingly loyal, vengeful and treacherous seem to have sprung from the same bloodlines as Falstaff, Pistol, Nell and their fellows. They pitch their tents in the same refuse-filled shadows as their forebears; a confederacy of the dispossessed. Healy's life, were it not for an astonishing turn of events, seems predestined to be a short one.
He was abused by his religious parents for most of his childhood and became an alcoholic early on in life. Brilliant. Not a word wasted. I read it in two days. I will keep this as a talisman to ward off sentimentality and gush. To start at the end of it, I will add this book as a resource to keep away from me, “…middle-class men and women, clean and fresh, whom it didn’t seem possible life had touched, discussing in posh, educated voices the hardships that had been handed to them until, on the point of suicide, they had found…” X,Y,Z: whatever self-indulgent claptrap filled in for them the life that was missing.Fantastic book based on the author's own experience as life as a homeless alcoholic in London. It depicts a world that is so familiar to us as we pass by such people almost every day, but yet is a world thoroughly alien and one that we hardly even contemplate. It’s a book about one person too who could be any or many of us, struggling to communicate. Common ground, park, grass arena, community, society. Healy, brought late to sobriety struggling and feeling unreal outside in the healthy happy laughing world of the confident. To get there, “I only had my aggression to relate with. If I couldn’t use that, I couldn’t communicate.” Think about it. “I only had my aggression to relate with.” Time and again one is appalled by the pleasure The grass Arena furnishes as literature, when it is so clearly not fiction. And this sense of the reader#s dilemma as a priviledged observer in a world of casual savagery that is palpably real is a troubling and thouroughly enriching one' -- John Kemp Literary review
Jon Healy, born 1943 to Irish immigrants, took to vagrancy, alcholism and crime, almost directly from the time he left home at 14. It is a part of life I have certainly walked past but never really thought too much about in daily life.Healy never quite lost everything. He never went mad completely. That made it worse in some ways. “Trying to hold onto a bit of sanity can make you vulnerable in lots of ways.” That he did hold on leaves us with a rarely powerful testimony. OK I’ve changed the 4 stars to 5, mainly because I’ve been sat thinking about this again, and can’t get the voice, its insistence on truth and its brutal depiction of the world of the vagrant alcoholic out of my head. This is one of the milder episodes: ‘We could get no water to mix with it [surgical spirit], so we went in the church and filled a milk bottle out of the holy water font and started slowly to swallow it. But it’s hard to get down first thing in the day – any time for that matter. Bastard stuff. It either makes you dead sleepy and fit for nothing or drives you mad and ready to kill some cunt.’ Healy was born into an impoverished, Irish immigrant family, in the slums of Kentish Town, North London. Out of school by 14, pressed into the army and intermittently in prison, Healy became an alocholic early on in life. Despite these obstacles Healy achieved remarkable, indeed phenomenal expertise in both writing and Chess, as outlined in the autobiographical The Grass Arena.
Two areas of interest for me - alcoholism since I have lost family members to the disease, uncle and granddaughter and because my father was an active AA member for 33 years, and chess since it is a game I thoroughly enjoy. Chess shows up later in the story as a possible means of deliverance from the throes of the drink. If you like your memoirs gritty then I have some GRIT 4 u (in the form of John Healy living 15 hellish years on the streets due to alcoholism) I like this novel most of all because it holds a certain 'nostalgia' for me. I remember when I was a child watching the film adaptation of this and seeing a pre-adolescent given a pint of beer in a pub bought by an older friend, and the child later became an alcoholic down the years. This was prescient, the experience mirrored my own, where drinking at the age of twelve/thirteen I drank in the company of older friends, and by the time I was nineteen was a fully-fledged alcoholic. Tragedy ensued, as recorded in my memoir 'Love, China and Alcohol'.
Kartoniert / Broschiert. Condition: New. John Healy, the son of poor Irish immigrants in London, grows up hardened by violence and soon finds himself overwhelmed by alcoholism. He ends up in the grass arena: the parks and streets of the inner city, where beggars, thieves, prostitutes and killers f. Few modern writers have managed to match Healy's power to refine from the brutal destructive condition of the chronic alcoholic a story so compelling it is beyond comparison. John Healy (b. 1943) was born into an impoverished, Irish immigrant family, in the slums of Kentish Town, North London. Healy, punchbag for a violent, vicious Catholic father, tempered by a hard environment, further brutalised in the army, and soon for fifteen years a member of that ‘vagrant society’ (his words) that is the city within the city of London. Alcoholics will love you if you have a bottle and kill you if you will not share it. This is a tremendously violent world, bleak beyond respectable imaginings, a world that is kept hidden largely by the routinely violent institutions of court, prison, healthcare. It is not the individuals as such, although there are plenty of psycopaths within and without the arena just as there are some gems (a probation officer, one who helped turn his life around) it is more a structural divide: “It just is”. Very funny at times, very warm too. Human, at the individual level, this Healy is a man worth the time in knowing. Not just for gawkish or voyeuristic reasons, not to admire or detest, but to see ourselves in. There is a good Afterword by Colin McCabe which compares human behaviour in the Grass Arena with that in the (financial) city: both societies struggle for power, the first is more honest and stripped down to basics stripped of their sartorial sheen of respectability.