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The Paranoid Sublime

Andrew O’Hagan, 26 May 1994

How late it was, how late 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 374 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 436 23292 8
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... saying how pointless and infuriating it was that the better writers – whom we may as well call James Kelman, Alasdair Gray and Tom Leonard among others – wouldn’t join in on the song. ‘It’s their loss,’ she said. ‘I mean, what do they want?’ A fairly good idea of what they wanted could be gleaned at that time from a visit to the Scotia ...

Dialects

Francis Spufford, 2 April 1987

Greyhound for Breakfast 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 230 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 436 23283 9
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Pauper, Brawler and Slanderer 
by Amos Tutuola.
Faber, 156 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14714 3
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... with a different vernacular and a different elevated diction. The first of the 47 fictions in James Kelman’s Greyhound for Breakfast finds old Francis on a park bench in Glasgow, menaced by vaguely circling winos trying to cadge a cigarette. It was downright fucking nonsensical. And yet it was the sort of incident you could credit. You were ...

Scottish Men and Scottish Women

Jenny Turner, 27 June 1991

The Burn 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 244 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 436 23286 3
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Blood 
by Janice Galloway.
Secker, 179 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 436 20027 9
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... James Kelman was born in Glasgow in 1946. After spells in the US as a teenager, London as a young adult, he returned to Glasgow, where he now lives and works. Janice Galloway was born in Ayrshire in 1956. She worked in Ayrshire as a schoolteacher until recently, when she started making enough money from her writing to give up teaching and move to Glasgow ...

It makes yer head go

David Craig: James Kelman and Gordon Legge, 18 February 1999

The Good Times 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 246 pp., £14.99, July 1998, 0 436 41215 2
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Near Neighbours 
by Gordon Legge.
Cape, 218 pp., £9.99, June 1998, 0 224 05120 2
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... James Kelman’s style is so mesmerising that after a few hours’ immersion I find myself thinking in it – an experience which is both intriguing and infuriating, although the former prevails. The voice which chats and muses and reasons, and girns and deaves, and argues and contradicts itself throughout these stories, reaching us like the grumbling and bubbling of a burn flowing under grass or heather, is not a transcript of Glasgow speech, or not only that ...

Common Sense

Sally Mapstone: James Kelman, 15 November 2001

Translated Accounts 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 322 pp., £15.99, June 2001, 0 436 27464 7
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... James Kelman’s fifth novel, Translated Accounts, is also his first to be delivered entirely in English. In the three novels he published between 1984 and 1989, Kelman mixed Scots and English, with Scots used to convey characters’ speech and states of mind while English handled action and certain, often more formal, types of discourse ...

Give or take a dead Scotsman

Liam McIlvanney: James Kelman’s witterings, 22 July 2004

You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free 
by James Kelman.
Hamish Hamilton, 437 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 241 14233 4
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... tenacity, the will to struggle on through difficult terrain, has long been a characteristic of James Kelman’s protagonists. More recently, it’s been a virtue demanded of his readers. Kelman’s last novel, Translated Accounts (2001), was a fractured political allegory in blurry translatorese from an uncertain ...

Glasgow über Alles

Julian Loose, 8 July 1993

Swing Hammer Swing! 
by Jeff Torrington.
Secker, 416 pp., £8.99, August 1992, 0 436 53120 8
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Looking for the Possible Dance 
by A.L. Kennedy.
Secker, 254 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 0 436 23321 5
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The Lights Below 
by Carl MacDougall.
Secker, 254 pp., £7.99, February 1993, 9780436270796
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... such as Polygon and Canongate, writers like Alasdair Gray, Agnes Owens, Thomas Healy, Tom Leonard, James Kelman and Janice Galloway have found the city a congenial location for their life and work, and their success is encouraging others. Of course, Glasgow has always had its writers. Torrington’s late Sixties hero is himself a working-class would-be ...

Shite

Karl Miller, 2 March 1989

A Disaffection 
by James Kelman.
Secker, 344 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 436 23284 7
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The Book of Sandy Stewart 
edited by Roger Leitch.
Scottish Academic Press, 168 pp., £15, December 1988, 0 7073 0560 8
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... said to have remarked, not long ago, that the people there didn’t seem to have much of a life. James Kelman’s stories make clear what life is like in Glasgow,* and what James Kelman’s life is like. They are not going to change the royal mind. This is the queen who was greeted, on a visit to a Scottish ...

Gray’s Elegy

Jonathan Coe, 8 October 1992

Poor Things 
by Alasdair Gray.
Bloomsbury, 317 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7475 1246 9
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... 1985, with the postscript to Lean Tales, the short story collection he shared with Agnes Owens and James Kelman. ‘A director of a London publishing house,’ he wrote (in the third person), ‘asked him if he had enough stories to make another collection. Gray said no. There was a handful of stories he had intended to build into another collection, but ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... Scottish writers have been insisting on it for years. Adherents of a politics of language such as James Kelman and the poet Tom Leonard (actually the midwife of the Glasgow ‘renaissance’, though less frequently mentioned than his novelist colleagues) do not group together on exclusively nationalist lines: they see themselves as part of a school which ...

Dead Not Deid

James Meek: A Great Radical Modernist, 22 May 2008

Kieron Smith, Boy 
by James Kelman.
Hamish Hamilton, 422 pp., £18.99, April 2008, 978 0 241 14241 7
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... The opening story in James Kelman’s 1998 collection, The Good Times, is called ‘Joe Laughed’. It’s nine pages long and is told from the point of view of a boy who plays football on a patch of waste ground among derelict industrial buildings by the river in a large, unnamed city which British readers are bound to assume is Glasgow ...

Fraynwaves

Hugh Barnes, 2 May 1985

Towards the End of the Morning 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 255 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221822 4
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Sweet Dreams 
by Michael Frayn.
Harvill, 223 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 00 221884 4
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The Fall of Kelvin Walker 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 144 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 9780862410728
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Lean Tales 
by James Kelman, Agnes Owens and Alasdair Gray.
Cape, 286 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 224 02262 8
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Stones for Ibarra 
by Harriet Doerr.
Deutsch, 214 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 9780233977522
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Family Dancing 
by David Leavitt.
Viking, 206 pp., £8.95, March 1985, 0 670 80263 8
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The Whitbread Stories: One 
by Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson.
Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp., £4.95, April 1985, 0 241 11544 2
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... As the train trundles out of Glasgow Central, homesickness descends. Gray’s hero speaks for James Kelman and Agnes Owens – the collection’s other contributors – and for all writing north of the border ferociously indifferent to England and its literary culture: ‘I do not love Glasgow much, I sometimes actively hate it but I am at home ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride, 8 August 2013

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... and keeping the maximum number of plates spinning with flicks of punctuation. It would do Henry James’s vision more violence to translate his books into an English deprived of intermediate stops than to render them in a comma-rich Esperanto. The novels of Proust and Mann would lose much of their intellectual flavour if commas were rationed. Céline took ...

Small by Small

Thomas Jones: Uzodinma Iweala’s ‘Beasts of No Nation’, 6 October 2005

Beasts of No Nation 
by Uzodinma Iweala.
Murray, 180 pp., £12.99, August 2005, 0 7195 6752 1
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... for the status of a particular form of non-standard English in the way that, say, the novels of James Kelman or the poems of Linton Kwesi Johnson are. But Agu’s voice is authentic in the more important sense that it conveys an impression of a fully developed human consciousness, however damaged. It is also true to Agu’s experience; the use of the ...

Diary

Duncan McLean: Frank Sargeson, 7 June 2018

... in his earlier stories, reminded me stylistically of some of the Scottish writers I admired, like James Kelman, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Janice Galloway. In the best of his work, the narrative is fragmented; there are sudden ellipses and omissions. He shifts aim slightly, deliberately missing the obvious dramatic bullseye: in ‘They Gave Her a ...

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