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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Contemporary Fiction, Plume) Paperback – September 1, 1992


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the best English writers of the day.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Sillitoe offers an authentic and vivacious portrait. . . . A sheer delight.”—Saturday Review
 
“A beautiful piece of work.”—The Guardian

“Brilliant.”—The New Yorker
 
“Mr. Sillitoe is a born writer, who knows his milieu and describes it with vivid, loving precision.” —Daily Telegraph
 
“There are few writers around who can rival Sillitoe when it comes to the complicated business of noticing things.” —Literary Review
 
“A master storyteller.” —The Observer
 
“Miles nearer the real thing than D.H. Lawrence's mystic, brooding working-men ever came.” —Sunday Express --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Alan Sillitoe was born in 1928, the son of a tannery worker. He left school at age fourteen to work in a factory. He was one of the working-class novelists who revitalized British fiction in the 1950s. His first novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was followed with the bestselling collection The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. He adapted both works for the screen in the early 1960s. He is the author of more than 40 works of prose, poetry, and drama. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Fiction, Plume
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452269083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452269088
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,578,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on March 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is Sillitoe's best-known work, a collection of stories presumably drawn in large part from his working class life in Great Britain. The book's emphasis on gritty realism will not be everyone's cup of tea -- no pun intended -- but I found his prose clean, powerful and nearly free of sentimentality.
Sillitoe's sympathy for the working class is best demonstrated in the title story, narrated by a teen resident of a reform school whose voice vibrates with rebellion. The youth shows a keen awareness of his position within England's rigid class structure and has made a conscious decision to resist those whom he says have "the whip hand" over him. Sillitoe reveals the motivation for his protagonist's attitude in an understated but memorable scene in which the youth remembers finding his laborer father dead, blood spilled out of his consumptive body. The reader sees the boy's perception that his father's life has been used up by the system. In the story's surprising final turn, the youth -- who has become a champion runner for his school -- attempts in his own way to turn the tables on that system.
The book contains several other strong stories. "The Fishing-Boat Picture" is the bittersweet memoir of a failed marriage; it effectively dramatizes the sense of lost opportunity we feel when our most important human connections are broken. "Mr Raynor the School-Teacher" brings to life the stultifying atmosphere of a London public school classroom presided over by a jaded teacher whose only ambition is to keep his rebellious charges at bay so that he can drift in reverie. "The Decline and Fall of Frankie Buller" has the feeling of a memoir. The narrator describes his hardscrabble youth and subsequent escape from his environment.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
This narrative story of an English working class teenager is set in the late 1940's/early 50's and is reminiscent of Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye". Sillitoe combines several themes in one short story,which can be read within 2-3 hours:a gifted youth struggling against social disadvantage,an insight into the reasons for the rise of socialism in post-war Britian and most impressively,a wonderful evocation of what it means to run,alone and across country.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on July 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alan Sillitoe was one of a number of young writers who emerged in the late fifties and sixties and who have become known as the "kitchen sink" school. (Other members of the group included the novelists Stan Barstow, John Braine, David Storey and Barry Hines and playwrights such as John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney). Their work was distinguished by a social-realist concentration of working-class life, often with a provincial setting.

This collection of short stories was published in 1959, a year after "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", Sillitoe's first novel. All the stories are set, or partly set, in the author's home town of Nottingham. The title story is both the best-known in the collection and the longest. It takes the form of a first-person monologue by Smith (we never learn his first name), a teenager from a working-class Nottingham home who is sent to Borstal after being convicted of robbing a bakery. (A "Borstal", named after the Kentish village in which the first such institution was situated, was at this period a special prison for young offenders).

While in Borstal, Smith discovers a talent for long-distance running, and this brings him to the notice of the Governor, who takes a keen interest in sport as a means of rehabilitating young offenders, and he is entered in a cross-country race against other Borstals. (The Governor believes that for one of his inmates to win the race would bring prestige to his institution). Smith has a real talent for the sport and could easily have won the race, but quite deliberately chooses to lose it, stopping running just short of the finishing line to allow another runner to pass him. He does so as a deliberate gesture of contempt for the Governor and for the whole of the Establishment which he despises.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nelson Aspen on October 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased a well worn, musty smelling paperback edition of this book published in 1967 and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful writing as well as the tactile sensation of thumbing my way through the cherished, yellowed pages. Brilliantly executed "tales of working class life and morals" are great to read--but none better than Chapter One about the Runner in the title. So well done, in fact, that my interest in the other stories quickly waned.

For reading pleasure, I highly recommend this collection. For runners, especially, Chapter One is worth the purchase price. Now I'm eager to see the Tom Courtenay movie version, which is apparently excellent, too.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Stockman on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
When I was reading this book, I was recognizing myself on every page. Every motion, smell, and sound was coming out of my life. I was running together with the Long-Distance Runner and feeling all his sorrows. I know what the nails in guts feel like and how hard it is to win a real victory that gives you real success. One against everyone. This is how one man fights one hundred thousand men and wins. Everything can happen during the race but fools don't understand it. The best men are beasts and human beings, lions and foxes, machines and cellular structures. I would bow to that man twenty thousand times if I was to have an honor to meet him. This is a book about me.
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