In his biography of B.S. Johnson, Coe argues that the novel should be a self-contained statement: ‘a work of literature should speak for itself, without the need for glossing, interpreting and contextualizing by reference to its writer’s life’ (2004b, 7). However, Coe willingly admits to the autobiographical dimension of some of his work, though none is as autobiographical as his unpublished novels, The Sunset Bell, a book about a university graduate who has been disappointed in love (it was completed in the early 1980s but never published), and Paul’s Dance (the title of a 1981 tune by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra), a conventional Bildungsroman mainly set in Birmingham during a long summer vacation, dealing with the friendship between two Cambridge undergraduates who had been schoolfriends, a book which was abandoned after some 300 pages (Website, Touch; Message Board 14 February 2013). Coe defines What a Carve Up! as a ‘political novel alongside this personal story about my childhood’ (in Lappin, 11), and admits that in The Rotters’Club, he ‘satirised [himself] as much as [he] could in the character of Benjamin Trotter’ (in Laity) so that the book feels like ‘“semiautobiographical” fiction: a thorough and sometimes uneasy blend of memory and invention’.
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