Short story review: ‘If you tolerate this…’ by Nicky Wire

 ‘If you tolerate this…’ is a short autobiographical story of the Manic Street Preachers’ bassist and vocalist Nicky Wire. He wrote this to convey how important libraries are to him and how vital they are in communities as they bring people, particularly social classes, together. He narrates in retrospect about his time as a child and right the way through adulthood.

The title of the story is a reference to the song ‘If you tolerate this your children will be next‘ by the Manic Street Preachers and the theme of the song is taken from the Spanish Civil War and the idealism of the Welsh volunteers who joined the fighting for the Spanish Republic. This gives us insight into the context, which is to ‘cherish these things while they exist’, as in libraries, so essentially, like the political state of Spain during the Spanish Civil War, libraries need to be fought for if they’re to be kept alive, despite its current state.

This short story opens in exposition, we get the opinion of Wire (‘hard not to feel utterly despondent’) mixed with realistic information (‘some of the few truly truly remarkable British institutions left’). Because of his expression of opinion throughout, the reader has to rely on him. The problem with the first-person narrative is that their partial opinions leaves its reliability questionable. Though the dependability is cemented through Wire’s style, it is personal to Wire’s life only, ‘Libraries have always reassuringly been there when I’ve needed them’.

Despite its format of a short critical story, we learn a great deal about the narrator Nicky Wire. We learn of the sentimental value of libraries of Wire and its fundamental role in his life. We also learn of his interests, ‘one of the biggest influences on my work, Philip Larkin’, and information of his closest relatives, ‘my wife Rachel’, and, ‘my brother Patrick’. This effectively lets us feel somewhat closer to the narrator, to share his ideals.

On a whole I find this an intriguing and absorbing piece of writing. His passion for books and his pursuit of knowledge is contagious. The beginning of each interlocking paragraph is just as gripping as the next. It is really worth the read.

A link to the short story can be found here:


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