When I was a young boy, there was a chess tournament in our hometown and my eldest brother got the first prize while the second got the secon Think William Burroughs's Naked Lunch 5 stars and then add chess as the turning point of the story. When I was a young boy, there was a chess tournament in our hometown and my eldest brother got the first prize while the second got the second place.
I tried playing it but I just could not think prior to moving my piece. This part in Healy's narration did not come to me: I am now 52 so even if I anticipate my opponent's move, I don't think I will be a great chess player. I and this book has nothing in common and it could neither be an escapist book for me. Good that Healy did not go to Italy and Indonesia.
Otherwise, I would not have given this a 4-star rating that in Goodreads means "I really like it! It is devoid of difficult words and literary style that sometimes are used by authors only to impress. The telling is straightforward and the short sentences felt urgent and you can't stop reading while wondering if there is really that "grass arena" in the seedy part of London where guys with no bottles of booze can get killed or those who don't share bottles can get killed too.
In summary, it is a self-confession of an alcoholic in London. Then he discovers chess and it brings him back to sanity. Thank you to Whitaker for swapping this book with my "Noli Me Tangere". My eldest brother, Joselito and our common friend Emir Never both of them are good chess players as well as bookworms are patiently waiting for me to finish this book so they can borrow.
My brother says that this is a rare book and they've been looking for this book since many months ago. Only to find out that I have it in my to-be-read folder. A must read for all chess players and readers. Mar 14, Serf rated it it was amazing Shelves: I finished Modern Classics the Grass Arena: An Autobiography yesterday and it was brilliant. A gritty account of life as a homeless alcoholic in inner city London. Healy doesn't hold back telling his life story of 15 years of homelessness and life with fellow alcoholics and the carnage caused in order to get the next drink.
He is not looking for sympathy, there is no great ethical or moral tale. It is just the sheer truth of the situation which makes this so good. It is a part of life I have certainly walked past but never really thought too much about in daily life. Colin McCabe gives a really good afterword about the book, highly recommended. Healy can describe characters in two sentences and you know exactly the kind of person he means Mar 22, Alan rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is one of the milder episodes: It either makes you dead sleepy and fit for nothing or drives you mad and ready to kill some cunt.
However I was wrong, the prose picked up a momentum and was actually quite beautiful in its pared-to-the bone way. The alcoholic is ruthless — anything for a drink; nothing else matters. Take this incident when a fight breaks out amongst his companions and Jock is stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle: His shirt collar turned crimson.. It bubbled up into his mouth, nothing could muffle the sound of the blood gurgling out between his fingers..
I started drinking one of the bottles. Now he was in the road. The cars were swerving and hooting, just missing him whenever he blundered in the wrong direction. It was comical really. Blood splashed and exhausted, stumbling and jerking around, he was saved from toppling over by being bounced from car to car.
The book is stuffed with anecdotes about stealing, drinking, fighting, sexual desire usually not fulfilled , and is packed with great characters. He is a remarkable man, resilient, wiry, aggressive, incapable of dissembling.
And an excellent writer. I remember seeing the film back in the 90s with Mark Rylance as Healy and it had the same raw amorality, its hunger for drink and its disdain for pretensions, I think. View all 3 comments. May 31, Whitaker rated it it was amazing Shelves: I think it's criminal that this book isn't more widely known and read.
It's a no bullshit account of his life as an alcoholic vagrant. It's honest and true and what the fucking hell is wrong with this world that only 12 people on GR have read it???? Here're two articles on his life subsequent to the events in this autobiography: View all 6 comments.
Really raw and honest book.
An Autobiography Penguin Modern Cl From the gentle but ominous first line, "My father didn't look like he would harm anyone", to the wistful and poignant last, not a breath was wasted, not a drama overstated. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab. But the visits to Ireland always end with a return to his council home in London. No explanation is given as to why the old life is instantly taken back up. He was a boxing champion by the time he was 16, was dishonorably discharged from the military and then lived the life of a wino i This was a book that I really came across by chance and its a rare, rough, gritty, carefully told autobiography of a life that is not usually told. My eldest brother, Joselito and our common friend Emir Never both of them are good chess players as well as bookworms are patiently waiting for me to finish this book so they can borrow.
Not an easy read but really difficult to stop reading it. Such an amazing hard life described with no holds barred! Highly recommend reading this book. Oct 04, Amy Flaherty rated it it was amazing. This was a book that I really came across by chance and its a rare, rough, gritty, carefully told autobiography of a life that is not usually told. Healy was born to Irish parents in London and traveled back and forth across the UK during his young life.
His early life was brutal, with a father who was very abusive and who did not provide a solid upbringing for Healy. He was a boxing champion by the time he was 16, was dishonorably discharged from the military and then lived the life of a wino i This was a book that I really came across by chance and its a rare, rough, gritty, carefully told autobiography of a life that is not usually told. He was a boxing champion by the time he was 16, was dishonorably discharged from the military and then lived the life of a wino in London.
While doing a prison stint, he traded his alcohol for chess and later became a chess champion. He is self-educated which is evident in his writing- the prose is very raw but he is able to express himself in a way that allows one to connect and really understand the life of someone with real demons and who struggles with them throughout his life.
The reason this book was recommended to me is that it was recently in the news because penguin picked it up as a modern classic after it being out of print for several years. He had a "row" with his previous publishers and threatened to "chop all your heads off with an axe. This book came highly recommended. You open the first page and you walk through a door into the mind and life of an alcoholic.
His degradation is sickening to read. I really got sick to my stomach. An alcoholic knows no line they cross them all until there is no where else to go. It is either death or salvation. John Healy had a noxious childhood. Isolated by his mother and abused by his father, he staggered into drug and alcohol abuse to alleviate the pain in his body and soul. Redemption comes This book came highly recommended. Redemption comes in a strange form, not an easy book to read, gutter language crime jail time. But a must read if you had any doubts as to alcohol being a disease of the body and mind.
Aug 20, Howard rated it really liked it.
This is an autobiography of a genuinely ex-homeless man. There is no mawkishness here, no sugar-coating, just Healy's raw amoral truth. I don't think I have more sympathy for the homeless - some of their crimes are appalling - but I don't have less sympathy - their lives are more hideous than I had imagined. What I did get is insight, which, looking around the streets of London, is, in this case, a terrifying thing.
It's worth noting too that Healy is a very good storyteller An incredible book. It's worth noting too that Healy is a very good storyteller and also has a lyrical gift at times. Dec 09, Katie Mcsweeney rated it it was amazing Shelves: Didn't realise that it was possible for me to not fall in love with the subject of a biography John Healy I don't idolise or apologise for him. His biography has made me see my city with new eyes. It has made me see the homeless with new eyes, not the soppy, sorrowful middle class consciousness I previously saw them through.
I am wondering much more practical things about the "texture of their lives" as Colin MacCabe puts it Whe Didn't realise that it was possible for me to not fall in love with the subject of a biography Where do they sleep, where can they wash, where do they eat and how can any of that be changed?
How did Healy get off the street? How did he manage to turn himself around?
Was it really just chess? Chess and the Dance of Death see chess as one means of managing the "tension" Healy's term caused in an individual who doesn't like or understand normal society. First Healy used drink as a way of relaxing him enough to interact It's so interesting to think of chess as a crutch or even a vice in anyway comparable to alcoholism.
I want to read this again when I am a few years older and have accrued a bit more life experience. I would universally recommend this. Feb 10, Kirsten rated it did not like it. Wow, what a book, feeling guilty for the one star rating already, but it was such a painful read that the only honest review for me would be 'didn't like it' hence the one star. Having said that, it was so powerful, this one gave me nightmares so couldn't read before bed.
I had such difficulty reading about the brutal life that the author lived, a novelised account would have been easier to cope with for sure. I read it for book club and am glad we did it, as my self selection is inevitably base Wow, what a book, feeling guilty for the one star rating already, but it was such a painful read that the only honest review for me would be 'didn't like it' hence the one star.
I read it for book club and am glad we did it, as my self selection is inevitably based on reading for pleasure, and reading can offer so much more can't it.
So, I've learnt a bit about the effects of a violent upbringing, followed by the wino lifestyle including homelessness and jail - ugly, vicious, brutal. It certainly makes me want to support any eradicating homelessness measures around. Good luck you pollies! Sep 15, Ian Mapp rated it really liked it Shelves: A more dramatic transformation of a life would be hard to imagine. For me, the impact of the book was instant. From the gentle but ominous first line, "My father didn't look like he would harm anyone", to the wistful and poignant last, not a breath was wasted, not a drama overstated.
His unique voice, at times angry and vicious, at others tender and funny, took me into a world whose inhabitants were as grotesque as they were wanting. Prison life could be base; life in the grass arena was baser.
I read it greedily in one sitting, Healy's beautiful prose sweetening the unpalatable, disguising the monstrous. I gasped at the sheer resilience that had enabled him not only to live through what men of lesser mettle would have found unsurvivable, but to come out the other end a notable figure in tournament chess and a world-class author.
For a long time, Healy's book featured in the small collection that I held dear to my heart and that accompanied me as I was transferred during the course of my sentence from cell to cell and from prison to prison up and down the country. Over the years I shared it many times with neighbours who had lost hope, become discouraged, or just needed a good read to get.
Eventually it disappeared - unreturned after a lending, most likely. But I never forgot it, or its message that no matter how dire circumstances might get, there were always possibilities of a better time ahead. It never occurred to me that one day I might meet Healy. Neither could I ever have imagined that following our meeting I would play a small but pivotal role in his book's return to print.
In the in-between years I occasionally found myself wondering what had become of Healy. For a while he had been a prominent figure in the media, then it all went quiet. Apparently there had been a dispute between author and publisher, resulting in a memo being sent from the top of Faber's hierarchy ordering all involved to "stop the print run and deem the book out of print". Although an award-winning film of the book was released in , starring Mark Rylance as Healy, The Grass Arena glory train was halted in its tracks.
Thereafter Healy went to look after his mother in the poorer part of Islington, nursing her through Alzheimer's disease to her death in the late s. He moved around for a while after that, eventually settling in a tiny two-bedroomed flat in north London, where he lives alone to this day. A wiry, roughly hewn man, he reminded me of my Scottish uncles, hard-drinking and hard-fighting men from another era. Healy, however, has been sober for more than 30 years.
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John Healy's The Grass Arena describes with unflinching honesty his like Last Exit to Brooklyn, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. Buy The Grass Arena: An Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics) by John Healy, Colin MacCabe (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book Store.
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Great I founnd this book a great read, I seen a documentary on tv about John Healy that why i bought the book.