What was that on your last front cover — some Pinocchio types eating a pizza? I know it‘s quite cheap to print something your wee niece or nephew did at nursery. but after the Kylie cover I was hoping for better. So what about Winona Ryder, or Sheena Easton even? Or. better still. the greatest sex god in the western hemisphere. Pat Nevin?
In case you hadn‘t noticed. Scotland is being suffocated by a blancmange of liberalism. It‘s so bad that Scots even have to apologise for supporting their own culture: ‘I‘m not a nationalist but . . .‘ is an increasingly common refrain.
Why can‘t we emulate Quebec and introduce a quota system on the numberof English or Anglicised liberals allowed to work here? Of course, ifthis were to happen there would be outraged cries from the London media and we‘d be treated the same way as Sinn Fein — you wouldn‘t be allowed to interview Scottish people on TV.
Shortbread SWA (Scots With Attitude) Glasgow.
What does this sentence in your art review mean? ‘Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe‘s photographs of Daufuskie Island are more than socio-historical documents or images reﬂecting back to a culture‘s visibility in light ofcontemporary exploitative economic forces‘. It would hardly pass muster as a particularly abstruse crossword clue
in The Financial Times.
Don‘t get me wrong, I‘m not against ‘big‘ or difficult words. when used correctly, in context. It‘s jargon I object to. I’m no art specialist, but I know the difference between David Mach and Mrs Mack, and I look to your magazine to tell me a bit about new exhibitions, to say what kind of works are on show and why they might be worth going to see.
By all means place the art in some kind ofsocial context, but please do so comprehensibly. If I wanted to read theorising about neo-colonialism, I‘d go to the reference library on George IV Bridge and look up Neo-Colonialist Review or whatever the specialist journal might be called.
Robert Andrews Grove Street Edinburgh.
Can something not be done about Muriel Gray? Whenever she criticises anything for being untrue, she follows it up with an equally harsh. unrealistic description of her own. For instance, she poured scorn
We welcome letters on any aspect of The List, or oflife in our glorious Scottish and European capitals. Next issue, the best letter wins a bottle ofJose Cuervo, Britain’s leading Tequila. Letters, which may be edited for publication, should be sent to The List. Old Athenaeum Theatre,
179 Buchanan Street, Glasgow G12JZ.
on William McIlvanney‘s idea ofthe Glasgow hard man, but then went on about wee kids standing outside pubs injecting heroin. Her putdowns are trite, and use the language of the tabloids. Does she ever have anything good to say about anything? No.
Gray is the Scottish Julie Burchill — overstating her case, and more interested in self-promotion than in the truth. And. despite her assertions, the preponderance of people with scars on their faces in Glasgow suggests that the hard man lives.
Mark Connelly Hyndland Road Glasgow.
Woe is me, what has happened to the intro bit ofyour film openers section? You know, the one that used to say things like ‘only one man can guide you through the fortnight‘s films. . . he is the one they call Trevor Johnston‘. I used to look forward to these snippets. You need more humour in the magazine, not less. Did Trevor‘s mum complain or something?
Complain? It was Trevor's mum who wrote them. But don ’t worry, they '11 be back.
While The List covers a wide range oftopics, politics, so vital a part of Scottish life, is conspicuous by its absence. The introduction of some form of political coverage would be very welcome. This doesn‘t mean you have to serve up MacDiarmid‘s theories in bite-sized chunks, but interviews with various parties and pressure groups would be a start - though hopefully you could make them more illuminating and entertaining than the desiccated stuff you get in the daily papers. Remember, the Campaign For A Scottish Assembly will still be here next year, long after When Harry Met Sally has disappeared from our screens. Mick Fleming Spottiswoode Street Edinburgh.
A belated letter to congratulate you on your reviewer Stuart Bathgate‘s very thorough hatchet-job on my novel OfDarkness And Light( The List 110).
While Mr Bathgate’s review is a
near-perfect monument to self- righteous, pseudo-intellectual, undergraduate spite, there are a few inacCuracies it would be as well to clear up.
For a start, Mr Bathgate says the novel ends with the narrator, Gary Scott, deciding to move to Edinburgh. In fact, it ends with him deciding to stay in Glasgow and face what‘s coming to him, as is stated clearly in the last couple of paragraphs ofthe book.
Mr Bathgate goes on to say that Scott treats women as sexual playthings. I‘m confused. Scott spends two years being faithful to a girl who only stays with him because she finds him sexually satisfying. After two years, he is unfaithful to her once, and thinking about it afterwards. says, ‘I felt like a slug.”
As to my ‘neanderthal attitude‘ towards women, I hope Mr Bathgate isn‘t suggesting that I dislike women. I like women; they‘re very useful. I don‘t know how my shirts would get ironed ifI didn‘t have one.
That deals with facts. Let‘s move on to opinions. Mr Bathgate thinks my dialogue is ‘stilted‘. He‘s entitled to think so, but the two film producers who have approached my publisher with offers to film the book obviously don’t think so. He further says my description is clichéd, citing my description of the East End of Glasgow as ‘not just the East End, but “Glasgow‘s notorious East End district.“ ‘He should bear in mind that, unlike the majority oftweedy pygmies in Scottish literature, I‘m published throughout the UK, not just in Scotland. Readers in London are hardly likely to know that the East End of Glasgow is ‘notorious‘ unless I actually say so.
Since Mr Bathgate‘s spite does not appear to come from careful reading ofthe book, I suspect it is a result of my literary style and attitudes being so un-trendy; I don‘t, for instance, take the New Man line of MCIIV'dnnC)’. whose attitude towards women is something along the lines of, ‘I‘m-With-You-Girls-It- Must-Be-Terrible-To-Have-Tits‘. Nor do I write in the illiterate, bar-room Marxist manner of Kelman, a writer who has received, in The List and elsewhere, more sycophantic reviews than there are
pages in his books.
Quite simply, Scottish writers are a race ofpygmies, and I am the best around at the moment. OfDarkness And Light is the most brilliant serious psychological thriller by a Scottish writer since the late Alexander Trocchi‘s Young Adam.
I hope for some kind of explanation or apology, and for better treatment when my second novel is published in August.
Barry Graham Inverness
Stuart Bathgate replies:
Your second novel will get ‘better treatment‘ if it‘s better than your first. Never having heard of you before I began reading OfDarkness And Light, I felt no spite, undergraduate or otherwise, towards you. What I did in my review was to express my opinion: of course, that was subjective, but then, if any other publication ran a review headlined ‘Scotland‘s Best Writer Brings Out Brilliant First Book‘ I must have missed it.
There is a point in the book where the narrator appears to have decided to move to Edinburgh, but yes, the novel does end with him choosing to confront the Bogey Man or whatever it is in Glasgow. That is the only point at which I may, inadvertently, have misrepresented you, but I can’t see how that might have adversely influenced readers ofthe review.
The narrator‘s being, by and large, faithful to his girlfriend proves nothing: one can be an introverted virgin and still regard women as ‘sexual playthings’. Scott‘s language when he beats up a fellow-journalist — ‘that felt good, you little fuckpig‘; the attitude of the women who work for Scott‘s magazine — full of admiration for the fearless journo; and moments such as when a policeman says. about the murder investigations, ‘Ifyou want to fuck with whatever‘s doing this, you‘re going to need a big dick‘, to which the narrator replies ‘I‘ve got one‘: all smacked ofadolescent, macho self-aggrandisement.
Finally, the last two paragraphs of my original review were cut. You won‘t like them either. but, for the record, here they are:
‘Stranger still than exchanging a cheery wave with a corpse is the fact that Bloomsbury, who purport to be the litterateurs par excellence of British publishing, should have issued this book in the way they have. With its full-page black and white illustrations, its naughty words, sex and violence, Of Darkness And Light would probably sell far better as a mass-market paperback aimed at a sub-Stephen King audience.
‘By publishing the book. Bloomsbury have performed a double disservice: to the public, who are being asked to pay so much for so little; and, perhaps more importantly, to the author himself, who really should have been advised that substantial rewriting, at least, would be required before the book merited publication.‘
Far from writing a hatchet-job, Barry, I bent over backwards to try to find some saving grace in your book. It wasn‘t easy.
76 The List 26 January — 8 February 1990
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