The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books Of 2017…

 

dsc_06491.jpgYou 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:

DSC_0382David 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

The Long & Short Of It: A Review Of James Kelman’s That Was A Shiver And Other Stories…

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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 Storiesis 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