Literature is regarded as elitist, and a minority interest reserved for those with the time and luxury to indulge in it. I believe that this is an unfair accusation that undermines the efforts of the writers who work tirelessly and conscientiously, often for little financial reward to present their artistic vision.
Writers are often derided while scientists and mathematicians are lauded, despite the fact that all endeavours require perseverance and imagination. The poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins used the metaphor of a hawk to explain God and His omniscience. The bird embodies the “brute beauty and valour” of the Creator and His world.
Many of us aspire to become writers due to a combination of confusion and curiosity about the world and our place in it. The Salford born playwright Shelagh Delaney wrote her first play when she was just 19. “A Taste of Honey” was later adapted for the stage, and was then made into a successful film.
However Delaney was a much more complicated person than the stereotype. Her background as the daughter of an Irish bus driver meant that the critics caricatured her and her work. Critics rarely perceive things beneath the surface, it is a familiar element that is perpetuated even today, the writer is always perceived by his or her gender, social background or race rather than the ideas or the characters that he or she creates.
Delaney grew up during the fifties and all kinds of social expectations were impressed upon her as a teenager. Her ambition to be a writer and to make a career out of it was never expected or even promoted. When she left school she worked in a clothes shop but was often found “resting” by the rails reading books. She was inspired to write plays while working as an usherette at the Theatre. She was particularly unimpressed by the fare of drawing room comedies and believed that she could write better material.
However she was acutely aware that girls, even those who were bright and ambitious were limited in their choices in those days and most of the time they were presumed to get married eventually.
Still Delaney confounded all expectations and became a successful dramatist. She wrote “Charlie Bubbles” in 1967 which was made into a film starring Albert Finney as the lead role. Throughout the seventies she wrote scripts for television and radio. Soon she had enough money to live comfortably and enjoyed all of the trappings of success. She loved attending cocktail parties and the fact that she could buy the clothes that she always dreamed of wearing. Her talent and success was both inspirational and exceptional, as literature is still perceived as an exclusive club. This perception is illusory and needs to disappear.