Episode 37

Published on:

13th Dec 2023

Masculinity and Memoir - Blake Morrison on Family Life

Blake Morrison’s award-winning, bestselling memoir ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ is an honest and intimate portrait of family life, father-son relations, and the impact of bereavement. Since it came out in 1993, Blake has continued to revisit his family’s past through ‘Things My Mother Never Told Me’ (2002), and is ‘still working things out’ in his poignant recent book ‘Two Sisters’, about his sister Gill and half-sister Josie, published earlier this year.

In this episode, Blake reads extracts from ‘Two Sisters’ and ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’, and we explore with him key themes in his work, including: sibling relationships; family secrets; men controlling women; male violence; transitions in father-son relations; youthful rebellion, and becoming a man. We also discuss issues around men, emotion and grief, the genres of ‘sib-lit’ and ‘dad-lit’, and the impact of feminism on Blake’s own development and writing. 

As well as a memoirist, Blake is a poet, novelist, and journalist. His published work includes the poetry collections ‘Dark Glasses’, ‘The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper’ and ‘Shingle Street’, and most recently, ‘Skin and Blister’, and four novels, including ‘The Last Weekend’ and ‘The Executor’. He’s a regular literary critic for the Guardian newspaper and the London Review of Books, and is Professor Emeritus of creative and life writing at Goldsmiths University. Born in Yorkshire, he has lived in South London for many years. 

We cover the following in this episode:

  • Reading from 'Two Sisters' (01:24-06:42)
  • Blake’s motivations for writing the book (06:42-08:14)
  • Why brothers don’t write about sisters (08:14-10:12)
  • Examples of ‘sib-lit’ (10:12-11:47)
  • The impact of alcoholism on Gill (11:47-13:46)
  • Alcoholism and gender (13:46-16:04)
  • Male violence and the efforts of adults to hide it (16:04-19:18)
  • The significance of women in Blake’s life (19:18-21:02)
  • The supposed stability of 1950s/60s family life (21:02-22:22)
  • Reading from ‘And When Did you Last See Your Father?' (22:22-26:09)
  • Why the book was so successful (26:09-27:47)
  • The extent to which Blake’s portrayal of fatherhood was culturally specific (27:47-30:21)
  • ‘Dad-lit’ and other authors to read on father-son relations (30:21-32:28)
  • Shifts in Blake’s relationship with his dad and how he saw him (32:28-34:41)
  • Blake’s capacity for writing honestly and sensitively about emotion (34:41-37:21)
  • Where Blake himself fits into his memoirs (37:21-39:39)
  • Gender and dealing with grief (39:39-41:25)
  • Why Blake kept his Dad's pacemaker (41:25-43:46)
  • What led him to write ‘Things My Mother Never Told Me’ (43:46-46:43)
  • The impact feminism had on Blake and his writing (46:43-50:32)
  • The influence that poetry and literature can have on young men (50:32-55:03)
Show artwork for Now and Men

About the Podcast

Now and Men
Current conversations about men's lives
What's it like to be a man in the 21st century? How are feminist issues relevant to men and boys? How can we engage in productive conversations about gender equality? These questions are being discussed more than ever.

Our monthly podcast delves into these issues with experts such as practitioners, activists and academics. In each episode, you’ll hear in-depth conversations about a wide-range of topics connected to masculinity and the lives of men and boys, such as preventing gender-based violence, promoting active fatherhood, and supporting men's health.

The podcast is hosted by two social science researchers, based on the opposite sides of the world: Sandy Ruxton from Durham University's Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (UK) and Dr Stephen Burrell from the University of Melbourne (Australia). If you would like to give us your feedback, suggest a guest, or have a question you'd like us to discuss, get in touch at nowandmen@gmail.com. And if you like what we do, please share us with your friends, and leave a review on Apple podcasts!

About your hosts

Stephen Burrell

Profile picture for Stephen Burrell
I am a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where I moved to at the beginning of 2024. My research is about men, masculinities and violence. I am particularly interested in the prevention of men's violence against women, building gender equality, addressing environmental harm, and promoting an ethic of care among men and boys. In my spare time I'm a big fan of drinking tea, being in nature, eating vegan ice cream, and listening to heavy metal music. I'm also a trustee for White Ribbon UK.

Sandy Ruxton

Profile picture for Sandy Ruxton
Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Durham University (UK). Independent researcher, expert on men and masculinities. Previous policy work on human rights, children and families, poverty and social exclusion, and asylum and migration. Programme experience with boys and young men in schools, community, and prisons. Steering Committee member, MenEngage Europe. Volunteer for OX4 Food Crew. Chess-player, bike-rider, tree-hugger. Great grandfather edited Boy's Own Paper, but was sacked.