James Kelman

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I've read 'Busconductor Hines,' which I loved, and 'How Late,' which I liked. Anyone else? What else is worth checking out?

57 7th (calstars), Tuesday, 22 February 2005 17:06 (nineteen years ago) link

It's hard to see why you would like one of those and not the other, for me, so I don't know how to answer. Translated Accounts is hard work and not very satisfaying (I reviewed it on FT some weeks ago). I love all of the others pretty equally - I think he's one of the UK's best living writers.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Tuesday, 22 February 2005 21:07 (nineteen years ago) link

one year passes...
I do too, in a way; or I want to.

I read A Disaffection in September; it's bleak, but readable and comic; I'd tend to recommend it.

the pinefox (the pinefox), Saturday, 11 November 2006 10:04 (seventeen years ago) link

I loved How late, but thought You have to be careful... was awful.

Ray (Ray), Saturday, 11 November 2006 10:21 (seventeen years ago) link

As a Scot I want to like Kelman but find I don't very much. I like that he writes about kinds of people I know and like and who aren't normally much written about - for example, working class Scots who get an education and some arty interests but are bloody mindedly NOT going to be upwardly mobile economically or socially.

But it's not enough - he's too earnest, too gloomy, infected with a kind of Presbyterianism of the soul. There is comedy of a sort, but it's a comedy with most of the joy taken out. There's a bit of the Caledonian cringe in there - it takes self-confidence to write a book that is light-hearted and offer it to the world as literature, and it's a confidence ambitious Scottish writers tend to lack - our "literary" writers usually put enough intellectual ballast in to leave you in no doubt that they are heavyweight contenders. More frivolity and inconsequentiality would be good.

frankiemachine (frankiemachine), Saturday, 11 November 2006 11:49 (seventeen years ago) link

Alisdair Gray?

Ray (Ray), Sunday, 12 November 2006 17:14 (seventeen years ago) link

I rather like Janine, but I was completely out of sympathy with Lanark, yet another gloomy, pretentious Scottish novel. There are some books whose appeal you can more or less understand, even if you don't care for them personally. There are others books whose appeal is totally mystifying -- Lanark comes into that category for me, I just don't get it at all.

frankiemachine (frankiemachine), Monday, 13 November 2006 11:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Really? I found it hard to get along with for abut 400pp, but liked the metafictional bit and the utopianism nearer the end, I think. Some of it is gloomy, but is it pretentious? Can its 'childlike' mode - faux naivete? - be a form of pretentiousness?

I do think that Gray seems, on the face of it, the answer to the reader who is frustrated by a lack of frivolity in Scottish fiction.

the pinefox (the pinefox), Monday, 13 November 2006 13:02 (seventeen years ago) link

Especially A History Maker and Poor Things.

Ray (Ray), Monday, 13 November 2006 13:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I read Lanark at university, a very long time ago, and it's now something of a distant memory. As so often the case with me, I find that I can recollect my opinion of the novel clearly enough, but can no longer remember much of the kind of detail I'd need to justify my opinion. There is always the possibility that if I re-read the book now I'd like it more, but I think that's unlikely -- I really didn't like it at the time. From memory I thought it gloomy, confused, and overambitious, with quasi allegorical elements that didn't work and a lack of empathy for its own characters.

My criticism of Scottish fiction isn't that there are no jokes but because there is too much earnestness of purpose or fear of appearing lightweight. The result is much ambitious stuff in the European modernist tradition that, whether you like it or not, leaves you in no doubt that it was written by someone who has read plenty of intellectually exacting stuff and is engaged in something more "worthwhile" than mere entertainment; and novels that, while full of impressive elements, often aren't much fun to read. As well as Kelman and Gray I'm thinking of Jeff Torrington and A. L. Kennedy among others. And much of McDiarmid's poetry. Even Ali Smith, a writer I really like, suffers from this to some extent - the reader isn't going to be allowed to remain unaware that she went to university and got a proper literary education.

Obviously these are sweeping generalisations -- we have entertainers as well -- but we seem to have proportionally few writers like Muriel Spark whose work is "literary" but also appeals to the ordinary reader.

frankiemachine (frankiemachine), Monday, 13 November 2006 14:59 (seventeen years ago) link

Alan Warner in his 'Sopranos' or even 'Morvern Callar' mode?

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Monday, 13 November 2006 15:06 (seventeen years ago) link

Agreed, Jerry, love them both, just wish there were more like them. I believe Warner's more recent fiction avoids some of the fun-to-read faux pas that his Scottish psyche no doubt finds a tad embarrassing about those 'prentice works, though.

frankiemachine (frankiemachine), Monday, 13 November 2006 18:53 (seventeen years ago) link

"A Disaffection" is quite fantastic, as is um. The other one I read recently. Don't remember. Maybe I didn't. A friend I trust on books tells me his stories beat his novels, got "Greyhound for Breakfast" today so we'll see.

808 the Bassking (Andrew Thames), Saturday, 18 November 2006 02:56 (seventeen years ago) link

sixteen years pass...

I wrote about James Kelman’s surprise foray into autofiction for @tribunemagazine https://t.co/PicIaCmBHs

— Calum Barnes (@balumcarnes) January 23, 2023

xyzzzz__, Monday, 23 January 2023 11:35 (one year ago) link

Interesting piece. I knew the writer briefly at uni. I've bought this but have only skimmed so far, it looks like fun

verhexen, Monday, 23 January 2023 11:54 (one year ago) link

Sent that post before I meant to but I guess it works as a coherent whole. Meant to say I admire this writer's pieces when I see them now, rather than just unimpressively namedrop.

Excited to read some Kelman autofiction in his twilight years even if it looks like it could be a bit cringe. He's always funnier than he ever got credit for and might as well treat himself. Shame as this could have been marketed as a something of a digestible comeback.

Really strange not even a UK independent press can make home for him when there are surely still admirers out there - whose choice is it?

verhexen, Monday, 23 January 2023 12:00 (one year ago) link

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