Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray is a Glaswegian Jack of several artistic trades, being unable to make a living by one of them. A Life in Pictures, about his visual work, will be published this year.

Poem: ‘Naming Britain’

Alasdair Gray, 27 May 2010

In three hundred and thirty B.C. when ships always tried to sail within sight of land, at the west exit from earth’s middle sea DON’T GO THROUGH was carved. That small strait led to the ocean that keeps moving its bed, drowning beaches twice between noon and noon and twice uncovering them, pulled by the moon.

It was hard to sail by such coasts without splitting keel on reef or...

Under the Sphinx

Alasdair Gray, 11 March 1993

This is the first full-length study of James Thomson’s life and work since Henry Salt’s in 1889. Thomson’s poem The City of Dreadful Night is known by name to many but has seldom been reprinted or discussed. Histories of literature say more about an earlier James Thomson (1700-48) who wrote The Seasons and ‘Rule Britannia’ and got into Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, though Johnson says his diction was ‘florid and luxuriant … and sometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than the mind.’ Without comparing the two Thomsons, Leonard shows by quotation that the Victorian (1834-82) is the greater poet. He shows, too, that the later Thomson’s life reflects the state of Britain more fully than other poets of his age excepting G. M. Hopkins and Hardy. Before describing how Places of the Mind retrieves his best work from the margin of literature I will suggest why The City of Dreadful Night was mislaid there.

Man is the pie: Alasdair Gray

Jenny Turner, 21 February 2013

In 1951, Alasdair Gray went on holiday with his family to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. He was 16, a pupil at Whitehill Senior Secondary School in Glasgow, brilliant at art and English...

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Nae new ideas, nae worries! Alasdair Gray

Jonathan Coe, 20 November 2008

Once a writer passes the age of 70, it’s hard to write anything about him that doesn’t sound like an obituary. The precedents for a sudden upsurge in creative energy after this age...

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Flattery and Whining: Prologomania

William Gass, 5 October 2000

Alasdair Gray has opened his Book of Prefaces with what he calls an Advertisement and followed that with an essay ‘On What Led to English Literature’. Since he deliberately does not...

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Gray’s Elegy

Jonathan Coe, 8 October 1992

This is Alasdair Gray’s funniest novel, his most high-spirited, and his least uneven. All of which does not necessarily make it his best, but certainly means that we have a nice surprise on...

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Hugh Barnes, 2 May 1985

Briefly during the second act Michael Frayn’s stage-play, Make and Break, transcends its setting, a Frankfurt trade fair, touching on a general gloom. Mrs Rogers is treating Garrard, a...

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Unnecessary People

Daniel Eilon, 3 May 1984

Two original and accomplished works by Alasdair Gray, self-styled ‘Caledonian promover of intelligible sapience’, are published this month. Unlikely Stories, Mostly is copiously...

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