You may have had your fill of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is small, beautifully formed, and well worthy of your attention.
These are the books which stood out against stiff competition in 2017. The list could easily have been longer but we like to stick to a traditional Top Ten. Consisting of five novels, two short story collections, a musical/historical biography, a collection of journalism, and a peerless book of essays, they take you to Memphis, Airdrie, Springboig and the Alsace, with detours to Firhill, London during the Blitz, New Mexico and Millport along the way. Taken as a whole they are a testament to the breadth of artistic and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today. Need further convincing? Here’s what we thought at the time:
David Keenan – This Is Memorial Device
This Is Memorial Device is spot on in terms of time and place, but it’s so much more than that. It’s rare for a writer to capture both in a manner which avoids nostalgia and feels relevant, but Keenan manages to do so. This is a novel which is about what it means to be young, about the hows and whys – the when and where is less relevant. It’s about youth. Real youth, not the sort of arrested development that is all too common these days. I’ve read it twice and will do so again before too long. At the age of 46 it’s had a palpable effect on me. If I had read it when I was 15, (as happened with The Busconductor Hines and The Wasp Factory), there’s every chance it would have changed my life. That’s your definition of a cult novel right there.
You can hear David Keenan talking about This Is Memorial Device on the SWH! podcast. Continue reading
There is an argument which you may have heard, possibly on these pages, that while James Kelman is one of the finest novelists around today, the format which suits his writing best is the short story. Kelman’s narratives are not about plot, they are snapshots of people’s everyday lives; lives which have been going on before we become involved, and which will continue once we have moved on, and that seems to work best in short, sharp bursts – fleeting, like thoughts themselves.
His latest collection, That Was A Shiver and Other Stories, is testament to this. For Kelman acolytes there are all the usual touchstones – references to other art forms, existential philosophy, the influence of Descartes (‘Clinging On’), internal monologues, socio/political commentary, and an unconventional use of language and grammar. But there are also surprises. There’s more obvious humour in these stories than has previously been the case. Kelman has always been funny (“I cannot eat a Johnny Cash cassette!”, from ‘the same is here again’, being just one example), but it was always a dark, unsettling, almost gallows humour which has become synonymous with the west of Scotland. Continue reading
From the 12th – 28th August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens once more becomes the place for book lovers to meet, greet, and be merry as this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival takes up its annual residence. It’s an oasis of calm and conversation in a city gone daft, and it is one of SWH!’s favourite places to be. With that and much more in mind, and to help you find something just for you, here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s book festival.
We have tried to avoid the already sold-out and high-profile to give you an alternative and achievable schedule.
FICTION’S MASTER CRAFTSMAN: James Kelman
– Fri 18 Aug 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Having said we have tried to avoid big names, the first pick is one of Scottish literature’s living legends. James Kelman is in town to talk primarily about his latest collection of short stories That Was A Shiver, and Other Stories. There is a body of thought, to which I belong, which believes that while Kelman is one of our great novelists he is an even better short story writer – a master of the art. It is a form which suits not only his style but also the content. What is unarguable is that this is a rare chance to listen to a true artist read and discuss his work. Astonishingly tickets still available at the time of writing, but I would get in there quickly to avoid disappointment. Continue reading
One of those questions you are asked to ponder every now and then is, “Who would you invite to your perfect dinner party”. Well, it looks like those organising this year’s Dundee Literary Festival have gone one better and put together a dream festival line-up. Running from today (19th) to Sunday 23rd, it shows off contemporary Scottish literature at its best, but offers much more, including celebrations of some lesser known writers including Shakespeare, H.G. Wells, and Shirley Jackson.
I can’t think of a better conversation I’d like to be part of than one between Liz Lochhead, James Kelman, Don Paterson, Jenni Fagan, and Alan Cumming, but that’s essentially what the Dundee Literary Festival 2016 is offering. However, that’s just the headliners. Like all the best festivals much of the interesting stuff is lower down the bill. The following is a short preview which only scratches the surface of what’s on offer, so, for the full programme, download the brochure here. Continue reading