long. sometimes unwieldy tracts of introspection and philosophising on a society out of killer with the narrator (or vice-versa). are made digestible by an undercurrent of sparky wit. As Mcllvanney says: ‘Even the most serious of thoughts needs humour to humanise it.‘

The term ‘post-modemism‘ has always left a bitter taste in Mcllvanney's mouth ’It takes common sense and transfers it into Chinese mandarin'. he says. He concedes. though. that ‘the form of this


Fired up

William Mcllvanney won the Whitbread Prize and the affection of Scottish readers with Docherty in 1975. His new novel The Kiln focuses on Docherty’s grandson. Mcllvanney assures Ann Donald this is about more than nostalgia.

‘The act of writing without implied morality would be meaningless. No matter how tangential, it’s got to be there.’

novel could be described as post modem in that there's a blurry line between fact and fiction. the structure is fractured. the time-scale broken and it has

By his own admission William Mcllvanney has always been 'an awkward bugger‘. He is not a member of any literary clique and has never been

academia‘s darling. His looks may belie his 60 years. but he‘s certainly not hip and isn‘t even on talking

terms with hype.

Mcllvanney's reputation is built on a solid popularity with a reading public. His I975 Whitbread winner Dot-herty was the 'l‘rainspotting of its day every Scottish home seemed to have one. The 80s found him shrugging off his The Big Man tag and moving into a probing social crime genre. which he feels peaked with his novel Strange Loyalities in l99l. Unfortunately. the thoughts of Mcllvanney’s hero 'tec Laidlaw on a barren and mercenary Thatcherite world were not fully appreciated and Mcllvanney lay low for five years. mulling over his

next project.

Now he's back with The Kiln. a novel his pal Sean Connery describes as ‘his best work to date‘. It is definitely a structural change for the Kilmamock- born author -- in it he presents ‘the acceptable face of post-modernism‘. it is also his most personal novel yet. inevitable autobiographical comparisons between

with my own.‘

William Mcllvanney: a writer with an ardent sense of the

Mcllvanney and The K iln‘s narrator Tom Docherty grandson of Mcllvanney‘s l975 creation are almost confirmed by the photographs of a teenage and 40- year-old Mcllvanney on the book‘s dust jacket. ‘Tom Docherty shares aspects of my life but is certainly not me.‘ Mcllvanney is quoted as saying. ‘But i felt as an author that ifl was able to take liberties with other people’s lives then I should be able to take liberties

The Kiln focuses upon a lone adult narrator living in a rented Edinburgh flat during the 90s. attempting to find and dissect his true self by recalling crucial episodes in his life. it is an accomplished novel —- its


a kaleidoscopic narrative.‘ He stresses: ‘Though I make demands on the reader it is vital for me that I try to take them along with me. unlike a lot of contemporary fiction authors who are so busy pleasing themselves they forget about the reader.‘ Besides its ardent sense of the reader. Mcllvanney‘s work is also marked by a searing morality. 'The act of writing without implied morality would be meaningless.‘ he states. ’No matter how tangential. it's got to be there. You cannot write 80.000 words without making choices and with those choices. a morality is implicit. i think that with fiction during the 805. it seemed to be fashionable merely to report and not to try and relate that report to bigger social issues. That is not a stance from which i can write.‘ The Kiln by William Mellvanne y is published by Sceptre at £15. 99. The author will be reading and talking about his work at The Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow on ll Sept at 7.30pm and Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh on Thurs [2 Sept at 7.30pm.

. Precious Jones, a sixteen-year-old of her homeless brother, and, she AFRO AMERICAN illiterate black girl who has been says, the memory of being sexually . raped by her father. She has given abused by her father. birth to two of his babies, one of ‘ln our culture we live in denial, but whom is liown’s Syndrome. iier people that have been through mother, who beats her for ‘stealing’ certain experiences know how low her man, forces her to leave home to people can sink,’ says Sapphire. face a forbidding world. After While Push has sold about TIMI]! Precious’s lather dies of runs, she copies in the US, it has critics In the discovers she is illll positive. The one Afro-American community who say it American writer Sapphire is no spark of hope in this powerful, sbnply stereotypes blacks. ‘Two thirds of stranger to controversy. In 1992 part written novel is Blue ilain, a literacy America’s black population no longer of her poem Wild Thing, published in teacher who shows Precious the way live in abject poverty,’ argues an obscure flew York journal, was - through the written word. Sapphire. “We have a middle class hijacked by the head of the American The 46-year-old Califomlan who have jobs and have been to Family Association, photocopied and performance poet who worked as a college. Their lives are very different sent to the Congress. prostitute before becoming a literacy to Preclous’s. They find someone llte The reverberations of her words, teacher in New York, stresses this her embanauing.’ isolated from their context - ‘christ seemingly incredible character is an iier answer is shple: ‘We two thirds sucked my dick behind the pulpit’ - ordinary girl found on the streets of that have moved out of poverty went all the way to the White ilouse. liarlem and the Bronx - Precious is should reach back and try to find if Wild Thing knocked Congress for based on one of Sapphire’s own Precious. She exists and she’s not six, Sapphire’s first novel Push should students. The writer has had her own going to go away.’ blow it away for all the right crosses to bear, including the death Neither, it seems, is Sapphire. reasons. its hero is Claireece 5‘99"": '0 “MW ‘0 mum"! of her alcoholic mother, the murder (Katideen Morgan)

The List 6-l9 Sept l996 73