This month’s Indelible Ink column looks at Anne Donovan’s Buddha Da. I remembered really enjoying this novel first time round, but after some critical reviews from a couple of people I was interested to see if my memory was correct or if my opinion would change. I found it had but not in the way that I feared. This is still one of the most enjoyable novels of the last decade, but I found my allegiances to the characters shifting.
The novel is split into three distinct sections and characters; Jimmy, Liz and Anne Marie. Jimmy is the father who is the catalyst for the novel, as his move towards Buddhism sets events in motion. It may be that I’m closer in age to Jimmy now than when I first read the book, but a character whom I had viewed as fairly sad, who should pull himself together, I now have considerably more time for. I used to view Buddha Da as Anne Marie’s novel, but now I’m not so sure.
Anne Donovan’s debut is, even after the second reading, funny, moving, lyrical and shows a real insight into the problems that can occur when individuals try to change within a family. It promotes understanding and tolerance, which we all could do with a little more of. Buddhists might call it ‘good karma’.
Next month’s novel under consideration is Alasdair Gray’s classic Lanark. This is a book that you really need to spend some time with. It requires your attention and concentration, but it is more than worth it. It is not only one of Scotland’s great novels, but simply one of the great novels. I would say that if you read only one of my recommendations, then make it Alasdair Gray’s Lanark. At least until we get to Ron Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice.
You’ll be hearing and seeing a lot of Alasdair Gray in the next few months. There is a major pictorial retrospective/biography on the way called A Life in Pictures, and their will be two major exhibitions of his art in Edinburgh, one of which will be at the National Gallery of Modern Art. If you’ve never encountered Alasdair Gray then reading Lanark is the best way to introduce yourself to the man and his work.
The next 5 novels under discussion are:
Alasdair Gray Lanark (Oct)
James Robertson The Fanatic (Nov)
James Kelman Kieron Smith, boy (Dec)
Suhayl Saadi Psychoraag (Jan)
Ron Butlin The Sound of My Voice (Feb)
P.S. While we’re talking exhibitions, there are only two weeks left of The Glasgow Boys (seeThe Boys are Back in Town…) at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. If you haven’t visited, and you can, then I really recommend it. It’s one of the greatest collections of Scottish painting that there has ever been, and it may be along time before such an exhibition happens again.