31st January 2012
The Grass Arena - John Healy
“Sober, precise, grotesque, violent, sad, charming and hilarious all at once” is how the Literary Review describes this gritty and disturbing autobiography of homeless alcoholic John Healy. Raised in a religious home, the book describes his descent from a young lad drawn to boxing as a way to defend himself from an abusive father, through to a life of crime and jail, ending up sleeping rough on the streets of London.
The book was first published in 1988 but re-printed in 2008 under the ‘Modern Classics’ division of Penguin with my South London bench shot on the cover. Although the writing is a little rough in places, it’s an eye-opening read that bears comparison with Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London.