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Glasgow writer JAMES KELMAN became a media darling with the publication of his Booker Prize-nominated novel A Disaffection. Stuart Bathgate spoke to the single-minded author who remains oblivious to critical comment, and we print an extract from his new short story collection The Burn. he journey of a thousand miles. position ever since.’ they say. begins with a single step. Similarly, he says that his attitude to sexual It‘s a truism worth remembering politics has not changed at all. It is simply should you harbour serious that he now feels more able to tackle such aspirations to be a writer. For issues. ‘Occasionally I get asked why there every brat who makes it big with aren’t more women in central roles in my their first book only to dwindle away stories. but I’m under no obligations as a thereafter to an early commercial death. writer to do one type ofstory or another. It‘s there are dozens of authors who dedicate very difficult to write from a female themselves to their work for decades before perspective‘ although there are some receiving the recognition and stories in The Burn which have women as the remuneration - they deserve. main characters ‘but over the last fifteen chortleworthy occasion. It may also be the One ofthe latter is James Kelman. years I’ve gradually expanded outwards case that many bourgeois readers and Quarter of a century has elapsed since his with my work to include other people’s critics. labouring under the decision to regard himself as a full-time experiences, so that it now deals much more misapprehension that the author is writer. An indication of the strength of his with people from the middle class or portraying these poor working—class commitment to that decision is that only in different racial backgrounds.’ characters and demanding our pity. miss the the past year or two. thanks mainly to the He does not. however. regard the acclaim point that Kelman. while remaining shortlisting of his last novel. A Disaffection. accorded to his recent work as recognition of sympathetic to his protagonists. is often for the Booker Prize. has he earned anything his increasing maturity. preferring to cast a taking the piss out of their sheer inarticulate amounting to a reasonable salary from his cold eye on criticism both favourable and rage. craft. adverse. ‘I said to a few friends before A Take the final paragraph of ‘lt’s The Ins ‘I started writing at 21 or 22.‘ Kelman Disaffection came out that this was going to And ()uts‘. for instance. The narrator is at explains. ‘From leaving school at fifteen I get a good reception. and l was right. It was his first cousin‘s wedding. and becoming always had spells of unemployment. usually much more open to mainstream critics. the increasingly annoyed by a local gangster byintention. lnone ofthem I just got a i central character had the same educational whois chatting up his wife. ‘Big fucking notebook and started writing. Since then background as most of them. and all the mafioso was still all over her. definitely out I‘ve always thought of myselfas a full-time literary referenees were there, An early oforder. I should just have walked across writer— everything else was done just to version of The Bus-conductor Hines (his first and let him have it. just banjoed the bastard. 1 finance my writing.‘ novel) had references to what books he was Charles fucking Atlas. Steve fucking Kelman's early tales. he says. ‘were just reading, and if I‘d left them in that would Zchwasenbacker or whatever his fucking i about people involved in everyday life‘. have been it bigger eritieal sueeess_‘ name is. Arnold or something. [Either that or 5 Now. an increasing confidence is enabling A common criticism of Kelmtm‘s work is lshould‘ve got a return bout with the bride. i him to tackle a wider range ofsubjects and that it often seems unremittingly gloomy_ but she had disappeared as well now. 3 characters. as is shown in his new book of ‘MV outlook on the world is not bleak at all“ probably through with the rest of the j short stories. The Burn. While many ofthe he eeuntets. A lot ofthe item in the stories women. the older generation fuck them i characters in the collection experience is lost on people. "Naval Histhry“ in The all. For some reason but I wanted to gub my feelings ofguilt and paranoia. and suffer Bum. for example. is just a funny story. one Uncle Dan.‘ j doubts about their masculine identity. he is thiit‘ if] were to read it. I‘d laugh a lot at, It‘s Kelman‘s work has of late received t at pains to stress that these are not struetum] irony _ that is‘ not jokes or flattering comparisons to the likes of i 311mb“)ngth“CCOUmS- anvthing. but humour based on the reader BCCkCIt and 2013. but {110 mil“ FCmélinS ! ‘The fact that some of the characters have understanding the attitudes of the unimpressed. ‘I cringe at such comments. i religious guilt-feelings has got nothing to do ehtimeters‘ and seeing the differetiee It's not a question of my work being worthy ; with me personally.‘ he explains. ‘I went to between the Character or narrator and of these comparisons. they're just the BB and Sunday School. but it was just njvgclf.‘ irrelevant. Actually when I saw that the usual minimal involvement with religion Certainly stories sueh as the HON“ mention oonla I remembered that I‘d read that you get as a Protestant child in the West particularly when read out loud can be very a lot of his stuff. I stopped reading him when of Scotland. [gave up religion when I was funny for tin that the initial situation—in lwas about 19. It was halfway through one 2 l twelve or thirteen. and I‘ve consolidated my this ease ti sudden death _ is not usually a novel about a priest. and I just thought L,- . ._ _ __ ____._______ _____ _ J

10 The List 19 Apri::2 Mai-i991