A brush with greatness and a national treasure

Last week I emailed the Great Lallands Peat Worrier, in faint hope of a clear view of David Cameron’s Syrian wet-job:

Be nice to have your view on Reyaad Khan’s termination. Would it chime with Carl Gardner and @Joshua Rozenberg?

I now receive a gracious response:

Many thanks for the email and apologies for my tardiness in responding to it. On the international law — the basic principles seem tolerably well-established — proportionality, necessity, and self-defence. Where it all gets sleekit — as usual — is how these principles relate to the particular instance of Reyaad Khan and the – undisclosed – facts concerning his threat to the United Kingdom and perhaps Iraq. 

As these will never be publicly disclosed, we enter a legally gyroscopic situation where the appropriate nostrums and legitimating concepts are repeated, but we’re left in the dark about whether they properly apply to the deceased. Invidious, really.

Succinct and as definitive as these things ever get.

By the by, the Peat Worrier’s observations on the dramatisation of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark are well worth the trip. At which point, I pause and note my 1982 paperback (a year after the original hard-back appeared) is well-worn and seriously foxed — Gray sits on the fiction shelf between Graves and Greene. If books could talk … there’d be no peace around here.

Scottish fiction has some very obvious land-marks. Anthony Burgess opined:

It was about time, Scotland produced a shattering work of fiction in the modern idiom. This is it.

Burgess had Gray as:

the first major Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott.

There might, though, be an egg or two too many in that particular pudding.

The trouble is every single Scottish novel, and its author (including Gray himself) , since Lanark, has been measured and thereby lessened against that marker. I’m less than convinced. Joyce claimed that Dublin, destroyed, could be rebuilt from his descriptions. Lawrence Durrell engendered an Alexandria in his Quartet (now there’s a text which has been a victim of fashion). Gray creates Duncan Thaw and Lanark, who inhabit cities called Glasgow and Unthank. He produces a miasma, clouded further by all those clever-clever sidebars and annotations. It;s all fair game, but a game on the reader.

So I was much taken by Peat Worrier’s observation:

I am always bemused when women say Lanark is their favourite book, and disturbed when men reach the same conclusion. 

Then adding swiftly:

Lanark is a book of blistering misogyny. Lanark is a book in which women are cyphers. It is a teenaged book, emotionally. A book shot through with those all too familiar sinister twins of men’s desire for and hatred of women.

I am aware that all novels are exploitative. When I made the end of Lanark, after some hard graft, over three decades ago, I knew I had been exploited.

The good news is the sales of Lanark continue; and must be one good reason why the publishers, Canongate, flourish.


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Filed under Alasdair Gray, David Cameron, Literature, Scotland

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