The art of forgiveness

When writer and musician Graham Lironi wrote a newspaper article condemning the Church of Scotland for ordaining a murderer as minister, all hell broke loose. In his first novel, he treads the same thorny ground. Teddy Jamieson asks why.

The sermon today is taken from the Gospel of the Second Chance. Nearly 30 years ago. James Nelson battered his mother to death in their home in Garrowhill. Lanarkshirc.

In April I986 he was ordained as a Church of Scotland minister. the first convicted tnurderer to enter the clergy of any Christian denomination.

A decade on. the Nelson case has provided the

written by Glasgow journalist and musician Graham Lironi.

The book. whose title is taken from a Oliver Cromwell quote. examines the thomy issues of deception and forgiveness through the lives of East Kilbride twins. Carol and Craig. and the relationship between their father who just happens to be called ‘Graham Lironi’ and his brother Gordon. Throw in

starting point for a new novel. The Barrels Of Christ.

Graham llroni: to forgive or not to forgive, that is the question

a spot of hill-walking. pop music and a meditation on the ‘mathematical complexities of sublimity‘ and you have one of the more curious Scottish novels of recent years.

Lironi has already stirred up members of the Church of Scotland this year when he wrote a newspaper article attacking the ordination of Nelson on the tenth anniversary of the event. and he remains horrified by it.

‘I find it a bit absurd. the concept that you can write off your past and everything is forgiven.‘ he says. ‘I think the idea of unlimited forgiveness is quite frightening. lfeverything is forgiven then there's no sin. there is no right or wrong.‘

Lironi readily admits he is religious. and the notion of redemption is one he finds difficult to accept.

‘l‘m not a religious scholar. but I thought life is seen as a precious gift. “Thou shalt not kill". Ijust can't get round the idea that the Church says you can kill if you want and you'll be forgiven.‘

But before enraged parishioners put pen to paper. it should be noted that Lironi‘s novel is not nearly so emphatic in its opinion of Nelson.

‘l‘d hate for the book to be perceived as an attack on James Nelson. an attack on the Church of Scotland. an attack on religion. because that's not what I’m about. I‘d like the book to be more open than that.’

This. he is keen to stress. is fiction. not journalism. Lironi the writer attempts to allow both sides of the argument to emerge in the book and leaves it to the reader to decide.

Lironi. sometime bassist with Glasgow band The Secret Goldfish. has been writing since his teens. The idea of writing a novel took over from writing songs in his twenties and after four unpublished novels which neither he nor any publisher was happy with, The Barrels Of Christ marks his first appearance in print.

Like any first novel. it has its failings. The book's ideas are at times opaque. and there are moments where you feel you are reading a lecture rather than fiction. but. to its credit. it is far removed from the prevailing urban realism that dominates Scottish fiction. No surprise. perhaps. considering he numbers Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie among his favourite writers.

A second novel is in the planning stages and again Lironi has drawn inspiration from the daily headlines. This time his theme is voluntary euthanasia.

‘I always try to write the best book I possibly can because it takes up so much time and eiTort.‘ he concludes. ‘I could never write a throwaway farce.’ The Barrels Of Christ is published by Black Ace Banks on Sat I 6 Nov at £6.95. Graham Lironi will launch Bowels Of Christ with The Revolutionery Corps 0f Teenage Jesus Soundsystem at John Smiths, 252 Byers Road. Thurs 2] Nov. 7pm.


Tea and an award, anyone?

Ah November, and the Scottish book awards are upon us already. Writers stammer, publishers’ palms sweat, fax machines chug out reams oi blurb and the whole ceremonial shebang is served up public service-style on Scottish Television.

The McVitie’s Prize for Scottish Writer 0t The Year shares its awards ceremony with the Saltire literary Award, but 1996 is especially flavoursome for the biscuit giant as it chalks up ten years of bestowing moneyed garlands on Scottish writing in all its variety.

Considering work from across the board - poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children’s books - the McVitie’s judges have announced their

Andrew 0'ilagan: the Missing link in the

On Fire (iieinemann).

race for the McVitle’s Prize

shortleet oi five. iione slot into the Scotpack niche, but titres names familiar to the reading public have been selected: Alan Spence for his Zen-infused collection Stone Garden And Other Stories (Phoenix), Andrew 0’Ilagan for his family memoir-cum- investgative sweep The Missing (Picador), and Sheena Mackay tor her Booker shortlisted novel The Orchard

lesser known, but equally impressive, are the shortlisted writers Alan Tonnaid Campbell and W. it. Herbert. Campbell’s Getting To Know Waiwai: An Amazonian Ethnography (Boutledge) fuses anthropology with subjective passions in a spectacular study of a tribe’s struggle with encroaching ‘civilisation’. Conflicts of a different character are deployed by poet W. ii. Herbert in Cabaret McConagalI (Bloodaxe) where Scots and English verse tussle with big questions: birth, death, phantasmagorical journeys and the shock of the information age.

With the Booker controversy still burning since judge A. ll. Wilson broke ranks to castigate the banquet as pretentious and chairperson Carmen Calill’s anti-American speech as parochial, The list wonders if Donny O’Rourke, the McVitle’s judge with the gob, will take up the gauntlet and brandish a pastie supper while ranting against the smothering influence of Canadian letters on our land?

At least no-one leaves the McVities literary shindig empty-handed: each writer receives £1 000 with a further £9000 for the winner. It looks set to be a three-way race between Mackey (Booker consolation), Spence and 0’iiagan. Your correspondent fancied a flutter on W. ii. iierbert, for sheer verve and audacity. But Willlun liill’s on Great Western lioad, Glasgow, couldn’t give me odds on sods when I tried to explain. Digestives, anyone? (Deirdre Molloy)

The Scottish Book Awards 1996 will be broadcast live on Scottish Television, Thurs 28 Ilov.

, The List l5-28 Nov I996 97