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Ian Sansom: A novel about work, 2 December 2004

Some Great Thing 
by Colin McAdam.
Cape, 358 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 9780224064552
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... had been well and truly forked off their lives. With the notable exceptions of Magnus Mills and James Kelman, most British writers don’t make a habit of writing about what’s at the centre of most people’s lives. And I don’t mean sex: that’s peripheral, like God. The last great English novel about work, about its anxieties, distortions and ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers: Karl Miller Remembered, 9 October 2014

... seize on any pairings that offered themselves (‘his antagonisms and his ingratiations’ – of James Kelman; ‘drugs … poured their balm, but embalmed him’ – of Robert Lowell; ‘Emmas, Cockburn and Rothschild’ – a Listener cover line; ‘Gray’s Elegy, and Wynne Godley’s’ – an LRB cover line), was always there but became more ...


Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB, 26 October 1989

... but the puffs of smoke have yet to ascend from the City of London. Habemus Papam. His Holiness James Kelman? That would be a turn-up for the Booker. I would imagine that Sister Margaret Atwood, or Brother Banville, is more likely to win the prize. On the short list is Rose Tremain, who teaches at the University of East Anglia. Two of the judges are ...

Lager and Pernod

Frank Kermode: Alan Warner, 22 August 2002

The Man Who Walks 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, May 2002, 0 224 06294 8
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... of the prudes. But perhaps we will be expected to have come to terms by now with the Scots of James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, noting that the proportion of obscene language seems to be even higher in demotic Scots than in demotic English, at any rate in novels. Somebody should look into this matter. The work ‘fuck’ and its derivatives were timidly ...

Realty Meltdown

Geoff Dyer, 24 August 1995

Independence Day 
by Richard Ford.
Harvill, 451 pp., £14.99, July 1995, 1 86046 020 8
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... have been said by someone in the book – and it becomes anything but awful. Think of the hoops James Kelman has had to wedge himself through to close the gap between narrative and dialogue; then think of Ford and that all-accommodating, middle-of-the-road voice that is equally at home either side of inverted commas. As in The Sportswriter, much of the ...

Memories We Get to Keep

James Meek: James Salter’s Apotheosis, 20 June 2013

All That Is 
by James Salter.
Picador, 290 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4472 3824 9
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Collected Stories 
by James Salter.
Picador, 303 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 1 4472 3938 3
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... point of view we experience the world, at the smallest remove from the first person ‘I’ – as James Kelman put it, not so much written from a character’s viewpoint as over his shoulder. In a writer like Kelman, Bellow or Coetzee, it’s a means to great work. Used as a default by less accomplished writers, the ...

Man is the pie

Jenny Turner: Alasdair Gray, 21 February 2013

Every Short Story 1951-2012 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 933 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 85786 560 1
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... as professor of creative writing at Glasgow University, a position shared with Tom Leonard and James Kelman; and nice gigs as a celebrity designer of murals at Hillhead subway station and at the Oran Mór arts centre. In terms of politics, however, Gray and the new Glasgow are at loggerheads. In 1990 he lampooned the European City of Culture ...


Jenny Turner: The Deborah Orr I Knew, 20 February 2020

... thought it was so funny – I started it, having picked it up from something I’d been reading by James Kelman. Death, death, death, death, death, death, death.I met her in September 1989, on my first day at City Limits, the co-operatively run London entertainments magazine set up by the leftier of the Time Out journalists after a long and bitter ...

Tucked in and under

Jenny Turner: Tim Parks, 30 September 1999

by Tim Parks.
Secker, 249 pp., £15.99, September 1999, 0 436 22088 1
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... people exist independently of your projections of them, that you get in the superficially similar James Kelman. It’s a bit static and solipsistic. One reason for this might be that Parks writes so much. The going-on-and-on problem – writing stuff that looks like nice prose, but doesn’t really mean much – does tend to happen when you work to ...


Elaine Jordan, 21 April 1983

The Viaduct 
by David Wheldon.
Bodley Head, 176 pp., £5.95, March 1983, 0 370 30519 1
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Rates of Exchange 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 310 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 436 06505 3
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by Maggie Ross.
Collins, 280 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 00 222602 2
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No Place on Earth 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Jan van Heurck.
Virago, 110 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 9780860683636
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Look at me 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 192 pp., £7.50, March 1983, 0 224 02055 2
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Not Not While the Giro and Other Stories 
by James Kelman.
Polygon, 207 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 9780904919653
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... of naming: the Frasers were old London friends of Mary Crawford, there’s a Maria here whom James (Henry Crawford and Edmund Bertram) goes off with, and there’s Fanny, as the Frasers call her, although she tells us at once that she does not like to be called this. What Fanny Price wins is what this Fanny desires: love that is open, innocent and simple ...

Scotland’s Dreaming

Rory Scothorne, 21 May 2020

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence 
by John Lloyd.
Polity, 224 pp., £20, April 2020, 978 1 5095 4266 6
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The Literary Politics of Scottish Devolution: Voice, Class, Nation 
by Scott Hames.
Edinburgh, 352 pp., £24.99, November 2019, 978 1 4744 1814 0
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... the empire market, Scots proved fast learners. It was two enterprising Scots, William Jardine and James Matheson, who forced opium on China in the 1820s. Their work was continued by Scottish bureaucrats like James Bruce, the 8th earl of Elgin, whose father stole the Parthenon Marbles from Greece. ‘I never felt so ashamed ...


James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... who said horrible things about the plebeian Joyce, and about the girls who worked at Woolworths; James Kelman acted like a barbarian at the Booker dinner, and so on. Most of these commentators imagine themselves to be writing a form of intellectual history when they are only pouring gossip into fancy goblets at London book parties. They experience ...


John Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin, 27 April 2000

Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... escape to Edinburgh’. He gave it to his father, who read it, ‘and went back to his bookshelf: James Bond, Where Eagles Dare’. So Rankin gave James Kelman’s first book to his father. His sort of thing, I thought. Working-class working man against the system. Dad couldn’t read it. Said it wasn’t ‘written ...

Cracker Culture

Ian Jackman, 7 September 2000

Irish America 
by Reginald Byron.
Oxford, 317 pp., £40, November 1999, 0 19 823355 8
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Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family’s Past 
by Richard White.
Cork, 282 pp., IR£14.99, October 1999, 1 85918 232 1
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From the Sin-é Café to the Black Hills: Notes on the New Irish 
by Eamon Wall.
Wisconsin, 139 pp., $16.95, February 2000, 0 299 16724 0
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The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America 
edited by Michael Glazier.
Notre Dame, 988 pp., £58.50, August 1999, 0 268 02755 2
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... read alongside that of the African-American Trey Ellis, the Latina Sandra Cisneros and the Scot James Kelman, rather than other Irish-Americans. Stephens’s books, Season at Coole and The Brooklyn Book of the Dead, present a family enduring a back-to-front version of the American Dream. The Coole family goes to the suburbs but does not assimilate or ...

I Wish I’d Never Had You

Jenny Turner: Janice Galloway, 9 October 2008

This Is Not about Me 
by Janice Galloway.
Granta, 341 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 1 84708 061 5
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... a schoolteacher, gradually becoming, in the late 1980s, a full-time writer – much encouraged by James Kelman, who discovered her work in a short-story competition. She is known mainly for three novels: The Trick Is to Keep Breathing (1989), the tale of a young teacher’s emotional collapse; Foreign Parts (1994), in which Cassie and Rona, West of ...

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