At the Guardian, Tim Cooke investigates why writers’ experiences with homelessness and destitution fascinates readers:
So what is the attraction of being down and out? For some, the prospect of real, hard-hitting subject matter has proved irresistible, while for others the route to the streets has been paved with anguish. Historically, those who have deliberately flung themselves downwards, as London might have put it, have tended to come from middle-class backgrounds and been almost exclusively male – a privileged position from which to explore the abyss, before rising again into comfort and security. For me, writers who have felt compelled to draw attention to the poor’s lot have produced the best work. Many more will no doubt follow suit; there’s something essential, vital, about understanding a little of what it is to be without a roof.