So, did anyone read Lanark then?

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Freaky when threads start up on the book you just happen to be reading at the moment... I'm on the cusp of Book 4 and really enjoying it. I didn't think I'd like the transition to Duncan Thaw's story, but I ended up enjoying Books 1 & 2 more than Book 3. I'm actually worried about the return to Unthank, that it might not live up to the dark despair of Duncan Thaw's Glasgow.

Did the middle books remind anyone else of Maugham's Of Human Bondage? For some reason it keeps conjuring up images of Philip and Mildred for me, though I haven't read that one in over a decade.

zan, Wednesday, 27 June 2001 03:08 (eighteen years ago) link

A grand mindfuck. One of my favourite Gray books although not his best.

Karie Bookish, Wednesday, 27 June 2001 03:38 (eighteen years ago) link

four years pass...
It's ages since my dog helped me read it. I know there were portions of the book I wouldn't have got through if the book hadn't come ILB recommended, but on the whole I really enjoyed it. I like huge Dickensian novels that take in the tiniest detail of a character's life. And I like dystopian fantasies where people are squashed together and things seem hopeless and relationships based on emotions are kind of frowned upon.
On the other hand, I do hate The Author putting in an appearance.

I'm not sure if I really know what the book was "about", though, or even if it was about one thing?

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Monday, 18 July 2005 16:38 (fourteen years ago) link

I've read it, didn't much like it, but all so long ago that I'd struggle to remember/articulate why, beyond thinking that it was too gloomy and in places too silly.

frankiemachine, Monday, 18 July 2005 16:51 (fourteen years ago) link

I liked it a lot for the reasons you mentioned. I read it back in the end of the nineties when I had recently been in Scotland and was also listening to Belle & Sebastian, although I am too lazy and tired to say what was the quintessence of Scottish. The only thing I didn't like was that page with the one paragraph James Kelman story.

k/l (Ken L), Monday, 18 July 2005 16:54 (fourteen years ago) link

Zan, you were one of the people who reminded me of it, because you'd said that you were going to start reading it and I thought it would be good for me to talk about it with someone who still had it fresh in their mind.

I've never read Of Human Bondage. Is it worth reading?

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Tuesday, 19 July 2005 06:23 (fourteen years ago) link

yes!

lauren (laurenp), Tuesday, 19 July 2005 10:20 (fourteen years ago) link

I almost finished Lanark, before wedding and other events caused a hiatus... now I'm not sure I will go back to it. What I read was great. I thought initially that I was going to prefer the more grounded(?) Thaw sections, but in fact I liked the Unthank books just as much. It's a terribly sad and lonely book though.

Archel (Archel), Tuesday, 19 July 2005 11:02 (fourteen years ago) link

accentmonkey: I'll let you know what I think when I've finished it (hopefully today or tomorrow). I kind of jumped the gun and read bits of an interview with Alasdair Gray about what each section of the book represents, and it's really helped me find "meaning" to the book as a whole: http://www.centerforbookculture.org/interviews/interview_gray.html

It's sad to me that he lived most of his life in financial distress (http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,1075875,00.html); I bought Lanark as a remainder, and I'm tempted to send Mr. Gray some money directly.

Of Human Bondage was my favorite book in high school. I haven't read it since, but I really loved it back then, so something must have been great about it. It's certainly not like the Unthank sections in any way, shape, or form, but something about the writing and scenarios in the middle books of Lanark reminded me of it. Just replace artist with doctor, and you're nearly there. I should re-read it myself...

(And I just noticed the date swap above. Oh wouldn't it be bizarre to go back to THAT date knowing all that I know now...)

zan, Tuesday, 19 July 2005 13:10 (fourteen years ago) link

Wow, I really got bored during the Epilogue. I thought it was an interesting shift when the author showed up, but then it just got bogged down with more ideas than story. And then when the story started up again, I couldn't imagine Lanark's world in the same way. It all just became words on the page. Is that the purpose of his Epilogue? I still haven't made it to the end; I think it'll be slow going.

I tend to get bored at the ends of books anyway. There are few books that leave me wanting more - for some reason, Smilla's Sense of Snow sticks out in my mind as ending too quickly. I'll forgive this one, though. I still really love it, and in semi-autobiographical novels, as far as I'm concerned, the author has every right to go on forever. I certainly would.

zan, Thursday, 21 July 2005 12:40 (fourteen years ago) link

That's exactly how I felt. I can't even remember what happens in the end of the book, I just wanted it to be over by the time the Epilogie started.

accentmonkey (accentmonkey), Thursday, 21 July 2005 15:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Lanark is a wonderful book, but it *is* very lonely - there have been times in my life when I've been reading it that I've found the Prologue too depressing to read. I enjoyed the way that the ending described by Gray in the epilogue differs from the actual ending of the book.

I'm actually worried about the return to Unthank, that it might not live up to the dark despair of Duncan Thaw's Glasgow.

The return journey itself is one of my favourite sections. The whole of the Unthank section is very much a typical "dream world", but the return journey is even more like a nightmare turned into a novel.

Forest Pines (ForestPines), Saturday, 23 July 2005 15:07 (fourteen years ago) link

five months pass...
Oh this book is so dark and lonely and bleak! I'm in the middle of Book 4, Lanark has bought into the bureaucracy, the drains are being blocked. I don't think I've read many (if any books) as sad and yet as compelling as this. Although, the comparison to Of Human Bondage is very apt. And our weather has been playing right along with the book, gray and dreary, raining endlessly and overcast for a week.

Jaq (Jaq), Thursday, 29 December 2005 05:04 (thirteen years ago) link

Reading Lanark during the holidays, when I had dug myself a 6-foot deep pit of despair already, capped it rather neatly. When the Author showed up, on New Year's Eve after a fairly miserable day with embittered angry family members, I yelled "well, fuck!" and slammed it shut. But then went back to reading it, as the PS2 wouldn't co-operate with the hotel tv and I felt compelled to know the rest. It is a hellish book, full of nightmares and horrors, mysteries and dark puzzles. I thought the best part was Thaw's descent as he painted and painted the church murals.

Jaq (Jaq), Monday, 2 January 2006 21:49 (thirteen years ago) link

The church murals were ones actually painted by Gray himself at that age - I can't remember what happens in the book, but in real life the church was demolished relatively soon afterwards.

Forest Pines (ForestPines), Tuesday, 3 January 2006 13:59 (thirteen years ago) link

In the book, he knows they will be destroyed, but continues to obsessively perfect them, falling deeper and deeper into madness until his Consciousness disconnects from physical reality. A parallel of a sort to the oracle, though reality fell away from him where Thaw more actively withdrew.

Jaq (Jaq), Tuesday, 3 January 2006 15:46 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, he captures that obsessive feeling so well. I hadn't heard it was based on his own experience but I assumed it was.

Paul Eater (eater), Tuesday, 3 January 2006 16:11 (thirteen years ago) link

He is also so spot on re: the dull bleakness of poverty, esp. for the working poor, but reading the tailpiece or interviews you see that comes from direct experience as well.

Jaq (Jaq), Tuesday, 3 January 2006 18:16 (thirteen years ago) link

five months pass...
Finished Lanark at last after trying on-and-off since 2004. Book 4 in particular was incredibly tough going, but the ending strangely uplifting - Lanark seemed to find some contentment at last despite having lost everything.

The Epilogue is shamefully indulgent, isn't it? I did enjoy the references to all the works the author has plagiarised, including the mentions of chapters not actually in the book - did chapters 45-50 ever exist? I sort of hope they did in some form, though obviously that stuff about "the android's seduction of God" and the cloth monkeys vs. the wire monkeys is presumably a joke...

eyeless in gazza (Phil A), Thursday, 15 June 2006 18:55 (thirteen years ago) link

ahahah i have no memory of that last, it makes me like this book all over again

tom west (thomp), Thursday, 15 June 2006 20:48 (thirteen years ago) link

three months pass...
Finished!! I wasn't immediately convinced by the ending but it sure was a hell of a ride.

wogan lenin (dog latin), Friday, 29 September 2006 10:42 (twelve years ago) link

Wow, I really got bored during the Epilogue. I thought it was an interesting shift when the author showed up, but then it just got bogged down with more ideas than story. And then when the story started up again, I couldn't imagine Lanark's world in the same way. It all just became words on the page. Is that the purpose of his Epilogue? I still haven't made it to the end; I think it'll be slow going.

I think this is the idea. I really liked the Epilogue section and I think even Gray himself knew that it was cheesy and that's why he self-deprecates by painting himself as a pompous sadist. I never found this book depressing but maybe that's because I'm a fan of Gray's oevre and I know all along that a lot of the bleak imagery is designed to be purposefully wry.

wogan lenin (dog latin), Friday, 29 September 2006 10:51 (twelve years ago) link

I have not read this since college. I will be trying again soon. Wish me luck!

Haikunym (Haikunym), Friday, 29 September 2006 13:10 (twelve years ago) link

twelve years pass...

I loved Book 1 and it's steadily deteriorated since then (midway thru Book 4 at this point). I almost gave up at the Epilogue and then skipped that part.

Surprising to hear the church mural was a real work of his, I thought it was a metaphor for the entire book, equally sprawling. I do think his strongly visual style combined with the absurdist elements is one the things that I have a hard time relating to.

Does he have better books that are less self-indulgent/absurd? Should I read Of Human Bondage? I hated A Remembrance of Things Past, and the painfully awkward bildungsroman bits of Lanark started to grate on me after a while.

viborg, Sunday, 28 April 2019 02:58 (four months ago) link


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