This month’s Indelible Ink column, which can only be found over at dearscotland, looks at Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. I describe it as Scotland‘s most impressive novel, and while that doeasn’t necessarlily mean that I think it is the best, there is no arguing that it is one of the most important works in the Scottish Literary canon.
Lanark is the novel that has takenthe greatest influence from, and in turn made the greatest impression on, Scottish literature. It connects the modernism of the early part of the century with the predominately urban sensibilities of the second half, but its influences are many and more varied than that suggests. By setting out his novel as he does Gray sets the reader a challenge right from the beginning, but it is more out of playfulness and love of perspectiverather than an intellectual exercise. This is a novel to enjoy, not one to work at.
Scottish novelists can be accused of being parochial, and this is not about what or where they write about, but is more a state of mind. It is a narrowing of focus that concentrates on the local or national, which is perfectly understandable, and sometimes desirable, but which became the standard for Scottish fiction for many years. The idea of writing an epic novel seemed anathema to modern Scottish writers, yet that is what ‘Lanark’ is. If Alasdair Gray had never written another thing he would still be acclaimed for writing ‘Lanark’.
Like many of the novels looked at in Indelible Ink so far, Robertson’s The Fanatic is a debut and is a terrific introduction to his work. It manages to bring together old and new Edinburgh, and, by extension, ancient and modern Scotland, something that can be found in all his fiction, either implicitly or explicitly. Like Alasdair Gray, James Robertson demands concentration from his readers, but it is always worth the effort. He educates as he entertains, which is surely what we want from a novelist.
Next 5 books: 1. James Robertson The Fanatic (Nov) 2. James Kelman Kieron Smith, boy (Dec) 3. Suhayl Saadi Psychoraag (Jan) 4. Ron Butlin The Sound of My Voice (Feb) 5. Duncan Mclean Bunker Man (Mar)