Backlisted – Ep 129. Rosemary Tonks – The Bloater - 18th January 2021

For this discussion of Rosemary Tonks fascinating third novel,The Bloater – first published by the Bodley Head in 1968 – Andy and John are joined by two enthusiastic fans of Tonks’s writing: the author and critic Jennifer Hodgson (who appeared on episode 61 to discuss Berg by Ann Quin) and the comedian, Stewart Lee.

The Bloater is long out of print, unfortunately, but the discussion also covers Tonks’s remarkable poetry, her friendship with Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, her eccentric career in fiction, radio and theatre, and her gradual retreat from the world.

Also in this episode Andy replenishes his enthusiasm for Elizabeth Taylor with her (bizarrely underrated) novel The Wedding Group (1968), while John extols the virtues of Andy Charman’s Crow Court, a debut novel of rare quality, set in Wimbourne Minster in Dorset in the mid-19th century and published by Unbound.

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As far as possible, all the books listed below are supplied via the Backlisted shop on and a proportion of the price helps support the podcast.

Books mentioned:

Rosemary Tonks – The Bloater; Emir; Opium Fogs; Businessmen as Lovers; Love Among the Operators; Way Out of Berkeley Square; The Halt During the Chase; Bedouin of the London Evening: The Collected Poems
Andy Charman – Crow Court
Elizabeth Taylor – The Wedding Group; In a Summer Season; Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
Ann Quin – The Unmapped Country; Berg
Stewart LeeMarch of the Lemmings: Brexit in Print and Performance 2016–2019
Adam Thorpe – Ulverton
Graham Macrae Burnet – His Bloody Project
Benjamin Myers – The Gallows Pole
Sarah Perry – The Essex Serpent
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake
Alice Jolly – Mary-Ann Sate, Imbecile
B.S. Johnson – Christy Malry’s Own Double Entry
Brigid Brophy – The Snow Ball
Penelope Gilliat – Mortal Matters
Nathalie Sarraute – Tropisms

Other links:

Rosemary Tonks on the Bloodaxe Books website
Neil Astley’s 2014 Guardian article on Tonks’s life
The Woman Who Quit, Michael Hofmann’s 2015 easy on Tonk’s work
The Rosemary Tonks page at neglected
Rosemary Tonks interview with Peter Orr (1963)
Rosemary Tonks reads ‘Badly Chosen Lover,’ 1963
Radiophonic workshop sounds via WikiDelia, a comprehensive Delia Derbyshire resource
The Borodin Quartet plays Borodin, String Quartet No 2, 1973
Rosemary Tonks: The Poet Who Vanished, 2009 BBC R4 documentary (currently unavailable)
Stewart Lee’s website
Trailer for King Rocker by Stewart Lee & Michael Cumming (Sky Arts 6th February, 9pm)
Obituary for the poet Val Warner in the Guardian (2020)