Gray's Lanark (1981) used both naturalism and fantasy to find a fictional equivalent--an apotheosis--for the city of...



Gray's Lanark (1981) used both naturalism and fantasy to find a fictional equivalent--an apotheosis--for the city of Glasgow. This second novel makes a world (failed) inside the head and life of a single Scotsman, Jock McLeish, who lies in a hotel room--fantasizing dirty scenarios, drinking, attempting suicide and failing, ultimately crying at the botch he's made of his life. Jock desperately tries to cheer himself up with a dogged bondage-and-fetish pornographic fantasy: he imagines heroine Janine, brought to a club of wealthy men with unpredictable, enormous erotic tastes; when the fantasy flags, he starts again, now imagining a neglected wife named Superb, a huge lesbian jailer named Big Momma. But reality keeps intruding--in the form of memories. Jock recalls childhood curiosity about sex--with peeks at a Jane Russell photo, with the shock of his mild mother running off with an extramarital lover. He remembers a brief theatrical career as a lighting designer. He reviews his sexual experiences--as lover of innocent Denny, husband of cool and barren Helen, then lover of jaded Sontag and someone called ""the Editor,"" then celibate for nine years. And he despairs over his current employment--as a security specialist. Jock's bildungsroman experiences, unfortunately, are familiar, weak-tea fare. His musings often slide into preachy bogs. (""We fear responsibility, you see, so inaccessible bodies attract us most. We neglect the ground below our feet and gaze at the stars hoping they are peopled with nasties so horrible that we will look decent beside them, by goodies so wise they will take us by the hand and guide us on to the True Way. . . ."") Only the shreds of porno here, in fact, have some zip and edge--while the novel's trick-format eventually becomes wearisome. And this is disappointing work, finally, from a talented writer--one whose caustic self-confidence and literary swagger remain interesting, perhaps promising.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1984