Books by James Kelman

DIRT ROAD by James Kelman
Released: July 11, 2017

"A rich tale of family, dislocation, the joys of creativity, and the torment of painful choices."
An award-winning Scottish author sets his coming-of-age story in the U.S. South, where a father and son on holiday from rural Scotland discover life can be as wrenching as death. Read full book review >
Released: April 23, 2013

"Though it lacks much of an arc, the novel's brevity and lack of affect are to its credit: a gritty and wise snapshot of urban life."
A bracing stream-of-consciousness tale of life on London's lower rungs from the veteran Scottish novelist and Booker Prize winner. Read full book review >
KIERON SMITH, BOY by James Kelman
Released: Nov. 1, 2008

"Though it's a vivid reminder that childhood is a foreign country, the book is way too long and self-indulgent."
A child's vision of his rough-and-tumble world occupies the latest from Scottish author Kelman (You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, 2004, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

"Ethnic prose authentically rendered fails to congeal into a persuasive whole."
From Booker-winning Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late, 1994, etc.) comes a vividly written, if meandering, portrait of a Scottish immigrant to America on the eve of his first trip home in 12 years. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 16, 2001

"A frustrating and difficult work that fails, albeit ambitiously, perhaps even nobly."
In his first since the Booker-winning How Late It Was, How Late (1994), Kelman essays a wildly different piece of experimentation. Read full book review >
BUSTED SCOTCH by James Kelman
Released: May 5, 1997

Capitalizing on his 1995 Booker novel, How late it was, how late, Kelman offers this compendium of 35 stories—10 culled from his only other collection to have appeared here (Greyhound for Breakfast, 1988)—portraying the down-and-out of Scottish society. The focus of these pieces (some of them a few paragraphs long), rendered in the frank, ferocious style for which Kelman has been rightly acclaimed, never shifts far from the working poor or the unemployed in Glasgow. Young or old, male or female, all of Kelman's characters are scarred both by poverty and by the inner frailties that poverty and violence give rise to. These wounds are often only incompletely perceived by the protagonists. ``No Long the Warehouseman'' describes a man who has ended up on the dole for reasons he can't explain to himself, let alone to his wife. In ``By the Burn,'' a father finds that memories of his daughter's violent death make it impossible for him to go on with his life. ``A Situation'' gives an extended view of a young salesman rendered all but immobile by feelings of inadequacy in his job and by guilt at having had sex with his fiancÇe's sister. These frailties also drive some characters to escape in fantasy, as in ``O Jesus, Here Come the Dwarfs,'' in which a potato-picker finds himself befriending, then defending, a group of little people; it's likely, we come to realize, that the whole incident occurred entirely in the man's frantic imagination. Common to these portraits of the downtrodden and the self-defeated are a dark hilarity and a lyricism that underscores each bleak encounter, slashing through with razor-sharp emphasis. Giving a crisp measure of the author's vision, these are tales that further demonstrate Kelman's angry, distinctive voice and his unsettling vision of modern life. (The Great Scots Reading Tour with Irvine Welsh, Duncan McLean, and James Kelman) Read full book review >
A DISAFFECTION by James Kelman
Released: March 20, 1989

Glasgow writer Kelman (Greyhound for Breakfast, 1987) follows a bumbling, lovesick Everyman on his daily rounds as he teaches, drinks, and broods. Too long for what it accomplishes, the novel's oddly musical style nonetheless offers a good deal of pleasure. Lonely bachelor Patrick Doyle, a schoolteacher with working-class roots, is preoccupied with thoughts of Alison (a married teacher), of Holderlin (a sort of role model), and of a pair of pipes he finds ("a surrogate pet"). He has a fatal penchant for dreary self-analysis and endless apology: "It was all useless. His mind was just too totally crazy." And he's neither here nor there: he carries grudges, especially toward his school superiors and the middle class, takes aimless drives, reads, fantasizes, etc. Meanwhile, he calls Alison; sees her several times; visits his parents; takes a bath; upchucks at school; makes his way through several classroom scenes; somehow gets slated for transfer to another school; has a heart-to-heart with Alison (she tells him she doesn't want to get involved); and, in a final overlong scene at his umemployed brother Gavin's house, argues about everything from politics to family. He stumbles off into the rain, stopping here and there for fish and chips, then launches into yet another domesticated stream-of-consciousness rant (it's the staple of the book) involving paranoia, suicide, and escape from himself. He ends the book appropriately: ". . .if it had not been so dark you would have seen the sky. Ah, fuck off, fuck off." Doyle isn't quite Everyman—the book is self-indulgent in places, tiresome in its endless riffs on one note—but his troubled life, rendered with real music, resonates often enough to pay tribute to the "Blues. A Glasgow working-man's blues." Read full book review >