A DISAFFECTION by James Kelman


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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."

Pub Date: March 20th, 1989
ISBN: 374-14024-3
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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