I have no idea how to review ‘Lanark’ by Alasdair Gray. It’s in the list of 100 Greatest Novels and of the ones I’ve read so far, is definitely one of my favourites. It’s an enormous and deep piece of work.
It’s futuristic, yet very human. Bleak, raw, real, touching, and in places confusing. One book within the book is about growing up a post-war Glasgow, the others are about a time when the sun has gone away so the calendar obsolete, and people mark time by counting their own heartbeats. And in parts of this bleak future time moves so fast that it seems only a matter of hours after Lanark’s son is born that he sitting up in his cot and saying ‘Bye, dad.’ as Lanark leaves the room.
There is too much to say, so all I will say is it’s really worth reading, and also I want to highlight my favourite element, which is the feeling of Glasgow, and how it is very realistic. I was a very small child living just outside Glasgow in the late seventies/early eighties, and some novels present either a tourist information view of the city, or maybe focus on the crime and poverty. It’s nice to read a novel set in a Scottish city where there are normal-ish people and families, where the feel of the place is subtle and not constant bagpipes and haggis in your face. Or, murder and drugs. I think the same of James Joyce and Colm Tóibín with Ireland, a real identity is presented, which is not a twee caricature.
And there’s cool artwork, by the author himself.
Click here for a gallery of Gray’s artwork