The literary revolution of Kingsley Amis and other ‘blokish’ writers

John Gross in the Wall Street Journal:

ED-AJ460_book05_DV_20090506215329 In the annals of British literature and the British theater, the 1950s have gone down as the era of the Angry Young Men — of a change in the cultural climate signaled above all by Kingsley Amis's novel “Lucky Jim” (1954) and John Osborne's play “Look Back in Anger” (1956). The phrase “Angry Young Men” itself was devised by a theater publicist at the time, and in a rough fashion it indicates what the fuss was about: a scornful rejection of Establishment values, a truculent individualism. But it was never more than a loose journalistic label, and over the years it has lost most of such resonance as it once had.

David Castronovo, who teaches at Pace University in New York, has set out to find a more satisfactory collective term for the writers of the Amis/Osborne generation and their successors. He has come up, as his title proclaims, with “blokes.” In a long introductory chapter he explains that a bloke is “a male who believes in his own spirit and is willing to do almost anything to see that it doesn't die.” Unlike a gentleman, who lives by rituals and codes, a bloke has no time for traditional social disciplines. The qualities that distinguish him include self-assertion, the pursuit of pleasure and “transgressive humor.”

More here.