BUSTED SCOTCH by James Kelman


Selected Stories
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 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)

Pub Date: May 5th, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04072-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1997


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