Monday, August 01, 2011

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse (W.W. Norton & Company 1959)

The breakfast ceremony at Hillcrest had never been my idea of fun. I had made one disastrous attempt to break the monotony of it, entering the room one day with my eyes shut and my arms outstretched like a sleep-walker, announcing in a shaky, echo-chamber voice: 'Ay York-shire breakfast scene. Ay polished table, one leaf out, covahed diagonally by ay white tablecloth, damask, with grrreen stripe bordah. Sauce-stain to the right, blackberry stain to the centre. Kellogg's corn flakes, Pyrex dishes, plate of fried bread. Around the table, the following personnel: fathah, mothah, grandmothah, one vacant place.' None of this had gone down well. I entered discreetly now, almost shiftily, taking in with a dull eye the old man's pint mug disfigured by a crack that was no longer mistaken for a hair, and the radio warming up for Yesterday in Parliament. It was a choice example of the hygienic family circle, but to me it had taken on the glazed familiarity of some old print such as When Did You Last See Your Father. I was greeted by the usual breathing noises.

'You decided to get up, then,' my mother said, slipping easily into the second series of conversations of the day. My stock replies were 'Yes,' 'No, I'm still in bed' and a snarled 'What does it look like?' according to mood. Today I chose 'Yes' and sat down to my boiled egg, stone cold as threatened. This made it a quarter to nine.

1 comment:

Darren said...

pages 8-9

The inclusion of five different Billy Liar front covers is explained away by the fact that the copy I borrowed from Brooklyn Library - an American first edition - didn't have a dust jacket.

The top front cover gets pride of place because it was the dust jacket for the first British edition of Waterhouse's wonderful novel.

Of course, the best cover of the lot is the Billy Liar Woodbine homage. Should be on a T shirt . . . but would it come in my size?