I came across the works of Morrison while I was doing background reading for my job interview. He wrote "realistic" novels and short stories about poor people in the East End. When I started to read I realised this was "Eastenders" for the lateI came across the works of Morrison while I was doing background reading for my job interview. He wrote "realistic" novels and short stories about poor people in the East End. When I started to read I realised this was "Eastenders" for the late Victorians. One big soap opera about people who had less money and were more criminal and immoral than you were. He be-friended a vicar in the area who believed that the poorest were irredeemable and should be put in single sex concentration camps and be left to die out. Unfortunatly this attitude tends to come through in a lot of the stories. His characters don't seem like real people with real problems, but rather he writes like they were a sub class of human. While there is a lot of poverty and misfortune in the stories it seems like most of the people's problems result from them being gulliable or making stupid descisions and you got the impression that they were slightly to blame for their own poverty.
However, there was one story that was pure brilliance. To Bow Bridge is a story about a trip on a 19th century night bus. For anyone whose taken a modern night bus in London it was brilliant to read and see how so little changes! Here were people trying to hurry to the next part of town where the pubs stayed open an hour later so they could keep drinking a bit longer. There were fights, someone throwing up, girls giggling, the people coming home from work, a woman out to late with her kids. It was a beautiful little slice of life that was captured and really rang true. I wish there had been more observational stories like this and less of the poor people are a subclass. Not all the other stories were as that bad, but overall it left you with a feeling that people were poor because they were stupid or bad. There were a few exceptions to this, one was about a woman and her mother who lived together running a school, that had no children and were hated by their neighbours for assuming airs, but eventually starved to death with no one realising they were hurting.
To Bow bridge is availble as an etext here (as is the rest of the stories) http://www.artintheblood.com/mh/meanstreets3.htm