With its abrasive accounts of child abuse, Scar Culture marks one of the most remarkable fiction debuts in years. Author TONI DAVIDSON makes the Scottish literary scene sit up and take notice.
Words: Brian Donaldson Photograph: Steve Reid
THE THIRD SECTION OF TONI DAVIDSON'S DEBUT NOVEL SCAR CULTURE is punctuated with the golden rules of psychotherapy. Number six states that ‘if the patient looks you in the eyes they are invariably lying.‘ The 33-year~old. Ayr-born author answers questions by staring fixedly beyond his interviewer‘s gaze. concentrating solely on replies and ideas.
So. no one should have cause to disbelieve when he says that he decided to become a writer when he was in Primary Four: or that he had a perfectly happy childhood: or that his book is based not on any directly personal experience. but on piles of reading and a brimful of imagination.
Dubbed by Edinburgh publishers Canongate as their hottest title to date (not bad considering last year they published the Bible). Scar Culture is a traumatic trawl through the broken bodies and charred minds of two victims of child abuse — Click and Fright — and the equally screwed-up therapist. Curtis Sad. who takes on their cases. And their tortured recall.
‘Memory is extremely important to Scar Culture.’ insists Davidson. ‘Much recent literature. particularly in America. has exposed the fraud of repression therapy which insists that repressed memories always bring out the truth. Yet. having said that. memories can confuse you , . with their intensity. They can act upon your memones can state of mind in a good way or in a fucked-up.
confuse you dysfunctional way. as it is with Curtis Sad.‘
- - As Sad ex lores new forms of thera /. it With their , . . P. . . . ,9). _ . becomes unclear whether the encounters with INTENSITY. They his sister are an ongoing part of his everyday can act upon lifeora delusional extension to some locked-
up mcrdents from the past.
your State Of Toni Davidson‘s history includes being
in a good born 200 yards away from Rabbie Burns’ cottage. studying in Manchester where be
way or m a thrived on the halcyon days of The Hacienda. fucked-Up, teaching in Hungary. working in a left-wing dysfunctioniﬂ bookshop called Changes. reviewing for The
' List and discovering the horror of two way. Toni Davidson publishers' rejection slips.
‘Writers take rejection very personally.‘ states Davidson. recalling Scar Culture‘s less lauded moments. ‘What was worse was that the postman couldn‘t put the manuscript through _ the door. so I had to go and collect it. Actually collect the rejection. And v the psychology of that. Well . . .'
Two years in the writing. Scar Culture‘s harsh material — some of the brutality will have you wincing — has unsurprisingly left its mark on the writer. whose daytime is filled with primary school teaching in Glasgow‘s Finnieston. ‘I guess if you write a humorous novel. you get a lot of laughs: if you‘re writing a book that involves a lot of dark subjects — the human. dysfunctional psyche — then you are going to enter into that state of mind a bit.‘
And what of the irrational fears of over-sensitive parents? ‘I realise that there are political considerations. but I‘ve always separated my work from my creative writing and that separation has always been the simplest way of doing things. My next book [Wild Justice] is about revenge. which isn‘t a concern as part of my day job. It just doesn't relate.‘
Yet. once the inevitable shit hits the public fan over the book. Toni Davidson may have to check out rule of psychotherapy number fourteen — ‘remain calm'.
Scar Culture is published by Rebel Inc on Thu 1 Jul, priced £9.99. Toni Davidson will be appearing at Cafe Royal, Edinburgh on Tue 27 Jul. For info, call Edinburgh Waterstone's, 556 3034/5.
8 THE lIST 24 Jun—8 Jul 1999