As a guide to literary Liverpool is launched to mark World Book Day, Peter Elson talks to the city's literati
VIENNA not withstanding, if anywhere was going to feature in the geography of psychoanalysis then there could only be one contender. Hail Liverpool!
One of the fathers of psychotherapy Carl Gustav Jung, particularly famed for his dream symbolism, came up with his own explanation that Liverpool is the pool of life.
Through its commercial success as Britain's premier seaport, Liverpool attracted characters in transit with stories to tell. Liverpool achieved a high status as a place in its own right, attracting the likes of Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde on their lecture tours. Dickens enrolled as a Liverpool special constable, for research purposes in 1860.
Earlier Daniel Defoe visited Liverpool on his British tour and put it into his novel Moll Flanders.
The excitement of Liverpool's port, the wealth of the merchant princes hard against the poverty was grist to the novelists' mills from the beginning.
World War II and Liverpool's status in the Battle of the Atlantic gave rise to Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea.
A plaque now adorns his birthplace in Rodney Street, where his father practised as a
leading city surgeon. Dame Beryl Bainbridge began work as an actor at Liverpool Playhouse and later used the city for some delightful conceits like Young Adolf.
Contemporary novelists like Neil Griffiths and Kevin Sampson portray modern Liverpool. Sampson and horror writer Ramsey Campbell worked as librarians in the city. Clive Barker, author of Weaveworld and Hellraiser, was born and educated in Liverpool.
These are just a smattering of the myriad talents in this, the city of storytellers.
* ALAN Bleasdale, the television screenwriter and Sage of Sefton Park, launches the Literary Liverpool booklet today at Liverpool Central Library, as a celebration of World Book Day.
Liverpool City Council's Tourism and Arts Unit has produced this 20-page guide
celebrating the city's connections with poetry, prose and drama.
It highlights the people and places that have put the city on the literary map. It is available free from Liverpool libraries and at North West tourist information centres.
Literary loves - writers' favourite prose and poems
TO MARK World Book Day, we asked a group of Merseyside writers about their favourite prose or poetry about Liverpool.
ALAN BLEASDALE, currently grappling with adapting Thackeray's Barry Lyndon for the BBC, is convinced that Liverpool's literary prowess is due to the Welsh and Irish blood and bronchitis.
Unashamedly, he goes back to 1960s Liverpool for his favourite pieces, the works of the Liverpool poets.
He says: "The poetry of Henri, Patten and McGough has stayed with me for 35 years.
"The beauty is its accessibility.
"As are the plays of Willy Russell, like Our Day Out, Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita, which are rooted in ordinary Liverpool life, but discuss important things.
"I get very aggravated by having to look up words in Roget's Thesaurus or a dictionary every 10 minutes.
"I am not ignorant, so I resent writers who write to try to baffle people.
"If writers like Orwell, Hemingway and Graham Greene achieve greatness through writing so clearly, then why can't everyone else.
"I read Greene's The End of the Affair at the age of 16 and it's stayed with me ever since."
FRANCIS COTTAM, who was born and brought up in Southport, is a fan of Dame Beryl Bainbridge.
The former journalist and now author received praise for Hamer's War, his World War II novel set in Germany, has a new war-time book Slapton Sands out in May.
He also retains a soft-spot for the Liverpool Poets.
Cottam says: "Beryl Bainbridge is a really intelligent writer and I enjoy the level of authenticity she achieves regardless of the milieu.
Her books are always vivid and convincing.
"When I was a kid at school I loved the Liverpool poets, particularly the wit of Roger McGough.
This is the legendary Scouse humour that we hear so much about, but rarely experience.
They succeeded in producing material that was quintessentially branded with the local culture, but, for the first time, combined thought-provoking messages with humour. "I can't think of a period in recent cultural history when poetry was less fashionable than in the 1970s, yet they flourished.
"For me, the most important novel was Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry, who came from Wallasey.
"It is a stream of consciousness up there with James Joyce's Ulysses.
"He was a tormented soul who felt inadequate and retreated to a remote area of Canada."
PAUL DU NOYER, author of Liverpool: Wondrous Place, chooses what he calls "vintage" writing about the city: Liverpool 1907, by Walter Dixon Scott. He says: "This is just the most beautiful set of descriptions about the city, written for the 700th anniversary of its charter.
"It's a portrait of the people and industry and commerce vitality and the poorer areas, the clerks commuting on the morning ferries from the Wirral, in that year. The evocation of sky over the city at sunset is superb. It is also illustrated with beautiful engravings of the city, ranging from the waterfront, to the little cigar shop on Mount Pleasant.
"Dixon Scott was born in Kirkdale in 1881, to a well-to-do family and went to work for the Midland Bank in Castle Street, Liverpool. He left when he was 25 to become a writer, but died at Gallipoli nine years later in 1915.
"I think I picked up my copy in a Liverpool second-hand bookshop, reprinted by the Gallery Press, of Neston, in 1979. For some reason, it's only the first half of the original book, but it made me most determined to write my own book about Liverpool.
"My theory is that it is a Celtic city in an Anglo-Saxon country so its sensibilities are different.
"So it's somewhere between everyday life and the supernatural, which is a very Celtic cultural thing. It's no surprise that psychedelia was invented here.
Liverpudlians were quasi-psychedelic before anyone took any drugs."
ROGER McGOUGH without hesitation chooses a piece by his late friend and fellow Liverpool poet, Adrian Henri, Tonight at Noon.
"What attracted me about his work was that poetry always belonged to other places, whether it was in the countryside or America. That it was possible to have poems about Walton or the Mersey Tunnel seemed fresh.
"As Adrian was a painter, he was very good at encapsulating the idea immediately, as he does in the opening line, 'Tonight at Noon'. It instantly conveys Liverpool's surrealism."
RICHARD WHITTINGTON-EGAN, the journalist whose memoirs Liverpool Echoes and Liverpool Shadows, are published by Bluecoat Press, believes the definitive Liverpool book is the singularly-titled The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy.
Mr Whittington-Egan, from Mossley Hill, says: "This was written in the mid-1950s by Pat O'Mara and deals with his underprivileged childhood, living in fear of a drunken father.
"It's a tremendously interesting view of the city, that rings true, capturing the Liverpool of the early 20th century.
"It shows how the conscience of richer people like my relatives the Rathbones was alerted to help poorer people.
"They had helped abolish the slave trade and turned their attentioninwards to improving conditions in the city.
"But it's not a miserable book. "It's amusing and shot through with terrible rogues and mad priests running amock. O'Mara eventually overcomes his tremendous disadvantages and becomes a New York taxi driver."