Winner of the 1996 McVitie’s Prize for Scottish Book Of The Year, Alan Spence tells Ann Donald about the inﬂuence of Sri Chinmoy and meditation on his exquisite prose.
he Alan Spence
MOI! JON I've done a load of filler jobs lasting six months — from nursing auxiliary and library assistant to working in a bakery factory.
M to taco-lo. I W I’d always written wee stories since 1 was a kid and then I had a poem published in The Herald as part of our school magazine's award. 1 was paid £4 for that at the time. While at university I decided I wanted to write full-time and by 1975 1 had a writer-in-residence post at Glasgow University.
Dilly routine 1 usually get up at 6am and meditate for 40 minutes. I used to go running round Arthur‘s Seat but I damaged my knee. so now I just go for a brisk walk or use weights to get my system going. By 9am I've had my breakfast and read the paper and am ready to start work. I try to write till 1pm and then relax or write again in the evening. I also like to write on trains. planes and in cafes.
Inﬂuences Literary influences are Dylan Thomas. James Joyce and Chekov. whose short stories are what I measure my own work by. In the 605 1 got into the spiritual dimension of Herman Hesse and Neil Gunn's work. and then by the 70s Raymond Carver's tight. pared down prose 1 found wonderful. Sri Chinmoy. my teacher. has also been a great influence upon me. I learnt how to meditate from him and I greatly admire his boundless love for life and creative energy.
“MOI! To keep writing.
Fm To lose the joy of writing. the creative spark.
loco-o It goes up and down but usually doesn't drop below £10,000. There‘s usually one thing - a play. a radio thing or a book - that gets me through the year.
Stone Garden And Other Stories is published by Phoenix House at £8. 99.
THE WRITE STUFF
BOOK REVIEWS - FUTURE IMPEBFECT
I Man 0' W8 William Shatner (Simon & Schuster £12.99) Old Bill Shatner puts his years of experience on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise to good use in creating the hero for this otherwise feeble SF effort. Benton Hawkes is a career diplomat on future Earth. much used to sorting out seemingly insoluble tensions between the corporations which have bought out the world's govemments. When things get tense between Earth and the Mars
colony. there‘s only one man for the job . . .
Part of Shatner‘s problem is that he has also drawn on Star Trek's most mundane. do-goody story lines for his inspiration. Then. after spending whole pages describing how Hawkes pours a drink. Shatner dispenses with cliff- hanging fights in a sentence. Which would be tolerable enough. iii a sub- Biggles sort of way. ifthe book was not so badly written. Shatner has boldly created a grammatical quagmire which will leave even his most lenient readers wincing. (Thom [)ibdin)
I A life of Picasso 1901-1917: The Painter of Modern lite John Richardson (Jonathan Cape £30) Pablo Picasso has long been one of this century‘s iconic figures — but what was he really like? In this second volume of the artist's biography. Richardson takes us through Picasso's most astonishing years as an artist. starting with Les Denmiselles d 'Avignmi. painted when he was only 25. Picasso was certainly no Mr Nice Guy. but what has that got to do with making great art?
Richardson's book is much more than just a ‘life of the artist‘. or a history of Cubism: it is about how an is made. A handbook to the definitive era of modemistn in a Paris at the height of its bohemian glory. the book‘s pages are crowded with the outrageous characters — writers. artists and Charlatans — who revolutionised forever the way we see things.
Throughout. Richardson's mastery of detail and depth of knowledge is superb. Allied to his skills as a narrator and critic. it makes his book a vastly entenaining masterpiece. (Marc Lambert)
I Rock Bottooi: Dark Moments In Music Babylon Pamela Des Barres (Little. Brown £16.99) Hammer of the gods? Bacchus would have downed tools and fled some of the madness told in this collection. Des Barres. who dallied with Keith Moon. Jim Momson and Jimmy Page in her time as queen of the West Coast groupie scene. can certainly tell a tale of Hollywood's other Babylon. Sex and drugs and . . . so passe. We're talking kidnapped corpses. exploding drummers and
carnal acts with sea creatures.
Tackily packaged. reasonably written. anecdotally brimming. this book gives away little that countless rock-biog bean spillers have not already furnished. That Janice Joplin. for example. was a chronically insecure junk-sick bourbon ﬁend is hardly a revelation. Rm‘k Bottom mostly details the lives ofthose members of what Kurt Cobain's mother called ‘that stupid club' — Jimi. Brian. Gram. Sid etc. Not so much a stairway to heaven as a crowded express elevator ride. (Rodger Evans)
I Mil: TI. Finﬂ Verdict Tom Bower (HarperCollins £6.99) A ﬁtting companion volume to his biography Maxwell: The Outsider. investigative journalist Bower has experienced the tactics of the Maxwell dynasty ﬁrst-hand via attempts to suppress publication of his writing. An intricate patchwork of the public. private and professional facets of Maxwell and those around him. the truth is almost beyond belief.
I Till Road Ahead Bill Gates (Penguin £7.99) Viciously villified and ridiculed. Microsoft mogul Gates attracted further dissent this year by restructuring his company around the Internet. In this revised version of his vision of the future. he proposes enticing and disturbing roles for technology in the Information Age. An accessible read but far-fetched in that little consideration is given to what society will embrace.
I I8“ Bfaiiiii Edited by Richard Glyn Jones (lndigo £6.99) ‘Erotic tales from the cutting edge of fiction.‘ Claiming that this anthology addresses ‘real life‘ issues. Glyn Jones may be accused of redeﬁning the word ‘erotic'. That said. these stories cornmendably avoid the blurry line between erotica and porn. A well-chosen collection which includes Amis. Acker. Kelman and McCabe. John McVicar and Pete Townshend.
I Biggest Elvis P. F. Kluge (Vintage £8.99) Gaudy and gutsy (and that's only the cover). this is a curious and ultimately unsatisfactory American tale. The rise and fall ofa trio of Elvis impersonators — Baby Elvis. Dude Elvis and Biggest Elvis — as seen through the eyes of the various protagonists. Kluge promises more than he can deliver.
I Eopherlia MacFarrigle And The Laughlng Virgin Christopher Whytc (£5.99) A riotous first novel of suggestive lampoonery guaranteeing apoplexy in the Catholic Church. Glasgow is in the grip of surreal ecclesiastical events: three immaculate conceptions in a West End convent. upstanding ladies in a sinister condonrcaching cartel. farting archbishops. and more. At the centre is the enigmatic Euphemia - good or evil‘.’ (Susan Mackenzie)
lily-Old 31an Fri 13 Dec. 4.30—6pm. John Smith’s. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. The famous chef signs copies of his guide to superior seasonal scoff. A Blane Christmas (Headline £19.99).
neatly Ml Klublgo'l Fri 13 Dec. 7-9pm. Department of Adult Education. University of Glasgow. 59 Oakﬁeld Avenue. 330 4394. £5. Janice Galloway. Donny O'Rourke. Alasdair Gray. Wilma Paterson and Adrian Wiszniewski take part in a round table open talk on ‘Other ways of seeing - does our education system over-value “head' knowledge above other modes?‘
MINI PM! Sat 14 Dec. 2pm. Art Gallery & Museum Kelvingrove. See Kids.
Sunday Rhymes Sun 15 Dec. 3—5pm. Bar Brel. 39 Ashton Lane. 342 4966. A new series of monthly poetry readings being held at the bar/restaurant. with contributions from David Duff and Mick Parkin. hosted by the oh-so-sharp Viv Gee.
neal Fast Vegetarian Food Sun 15 Dec. 2pm. Waterstone's. 121 Union Street. 221 0890. Ursula Ferrigno holds a demonstration and tasting of recipes from her new cookery book (Metro Books £8.99).
If This Is Paradise, What Then Is Hell? Sun 15 Dec. 1.30pm. Cottier Theatre. 935 Hyndland Road. 357 3868. £3 (£1). An evening of creative writing and music based on the life and work of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Oscar Wilde and Jung Chang. with readings by members of the Castlemilk Writers Group and music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Raymond 3136 Sat 14 Dec. llarn—noon. Waterstone‘s. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. One of our most celebrated chefs signs copies of the ultimate festive cook book. A Blane Christmas (Headline £19.99). Scott Hastings Sun 15 Dec. noon-lpm. James Thin. 57 George Street. 225 4495. One of Scotland's most successful rugby players reads from his new biography.
Vtv Bee hosts Sunday mt. clarion. Stat 15
written with Derek Douglas. Great Scott! (Mainstream £14.99). noel Fast Vegetarian Food Mon to Dec. 12.30-1.30pm James Thin. 53 South Bridge. 556 6743; 6.30pm James Thin. 57 George Street. 225 4495. Ursula Ferrigno holds a demonstration and tasting of recipes from her new cookery book (Metro Books £8.99).
I... Pm Sat 28-30 Dec. 3.30pm. Netherbow Theatre. See Kids.
aortic List 13 Dec 1996-9 Jan 199'7