Almost every month this year has seen the publication of another widely acclaimed new work of ﬁction by one of the emergent generation of contemporary Scottish writers. The latest is by JANICE GALLOWAY who spoke to Sue Wilson about her eagerly awaited second novel Foreign Parts.
ravel broadens the mind, so they say. But all too often the truth is that journeying outside your own, known, geographical patch only brings home the fact that you carry your real territory with you wherever you go. Both the desire for Watney’s Red Barrel and fish and chips. or the memories of an unhappy love- affair can prove equally inescapable. At the same time. travel can remind you that you don’t have to go abroad to feel lost in an alien land. It’s this paradox which underpins the complex. often painful. often funny. psycholog- ical plotting ofJanice Galloway’s second novel. Foreign Parts, which follows two friends, Cassie and Rona, welfare rights workers past the first flush of youth. through a two-week dn'ving holiday in France. It might sound a far cry from the dark, post-breakdown psychic
landscape she mapped with such white-knuckle .
intensity and stylistic originality in her first novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing. or the female struggles for identity. space and love in a hostile 19805 Glasgow, which formed the subjects of the short stories collected in Blood. but from the moment we join the pair as they park the car in the bowels of the cross-channel ferry, it’s clear that this will be no sunny hedonistic idyll:
‘Driving into the glare of your own headlights on the wall. you wonder how it would be if she hit the accelerator instead of the brake how it would be if. . .’
Galloway says that she started the novel with
Janice Galloway has a lot of ion laying bare the often awful, sticky, irritable reality of holidays.
little more in mind than the question: ‘Who is this woman [Cassie from whose perspective the narrative emerges] and why is she in such a bad mood‘?’ What develops is a painstakingly crafted. multi-layered investigation of contem- porary female experience. evoked obliquely but with steely vividness through the nitty-gritty of horrible ferry cafeterias, hard horsehair mattresses in youth hostels. casual harassment from Frenchmen, inane guide-book descriptions and dutiful. dull-eyed tours around cathedrals and castles. Through the accumulation of such details. ofCassie’s responses and shifts in mood, all placed with minute care (Galloway display- ing her characteristic inventiveness with the layout of words on the page) the slippery, fragmentary nature of consciousness and communication is evoked with a striking. unsettling clarity. And with a good deal ofcomic relish; you often get the feeling that Galloway had a lot of fun laying bare the often awful. sticky, irritable reality of holidays. at the same time as exploring some hard and serious questions about women trying to map out a route in the foreign territory of a man’s world. ‘Cassie is constantly trying to find the present
moment: you’re alive now, now, this is it; she keeps looking at these cathedrals and things, trying to muster significance. but you can’t, you can never think of enough significant things, or the right things.’ Galloway explains. ‘You only get odd snatches. times when you’re not thinking, I wonder what I’ll make for the tea, [’1] need to go and get the wee boy from nursery soon, i wonder if Sue would like another cup of coffee — your head’s all over the place, most of the time, it’s only occasionally that you really connect with the fact of being alive on the surface of the planet in the here and now. Cassie’s all the time desperately trying to grab hold of that, when she’s looking at all this “old stuff", as she calls it. thinking there’s something she ought to be feeling, which is like what she feels about her own life.‘
Interleaved with the accounts of Cassie and Rona’s travels are descriptions of holiday snaps which form an album of Cassie’s romantic past — mainly from trips to England, Greece and Turkey with her long-term, now ex, lover Chn’s. plus a few from jaunts with his shorter-lived successors. Cassie’s bittersweet (with the emphasis on the bitter) reﬂections on these
[mum— ‘Foreign Parts’
by Janice Galloway
The bed looked terrible. Cassie poked it with one finger. Horsehair.
Christ. Feel this.
Doesn‘t matter if it’s terrible. it‘s cheap. Cheap. Cassie. cheap.
Cassie plonked the sportsbag on the hard surface. It didn't even dent.
it‘s just the one night. Rona said.
She was off already. hunting about.
After toilets. Everywhere they went. Rona found the toilets within five
12 The List 22 April—5 May 1994
minutes of arriving. Cassie always said Rona should write a book on how to do it. a boon for the British Tourist and Rona always ignored her. As she was meant to.
Rona shouting. The hollow tile ring behind-it said exactly what the showers were like. They were cold showers; cold, white showers with the grout needing redone and halfdoors if any at
all and the basins like wash-house sinks.
it was that kind of tile-noise behind Rona‘s voice.
Showers. This time the rest of Rona came after
the voice so the hollow tone was gone. She was smiling: the kind of smile that
knew the place was awful but would refuse to admit it. Rona loves showers. She loves games of not admitting hellishness is hellish. It drives me round the bloody twist.
One time we went to Glen Nevis. Rona and some friends she‘d been in the Guides with or something, went
camping and she asked Cassie too. Not long after Cassie started in the office. Cassie could remember being asked but not why she said yes. To show willing probably: new girl fitting in. What you did because you thought everybody did it and you wanted company. Trying not to look too horrified so they wouldn‘t laugh, all those fine healthy women with climbing boots and no make-up. taking showers every morning and
every night even though there was only cold water. a tiled ﬂoor awash with stagnant puddles. Wet socks all the time. The same knickers for three days. It was terrible. more terrible than Cassie imagined and she imagined it would be tenible. The cold water running over your wrists when you ran the water. trying to magic the warm to start coming through and it didn't. She didn‘t take anything off, just went back to the tent with the one freezing wrist. Rona was there every morning and every night laughing. Cassie tried like hell twice then didn't care. There was no point making out it wasn’t awful. Cassie stayed warm and dirty. She stayed away from the shower block.
Now here we are again.
© Janice Galloway 1994.