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‘»‘~.'.1 ".V 5"?1Vi ii ‘( ){ WAL'A RON BUTLIN

Night Visits

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When Irvine Welsh was asked by the Village Voice to name a lost classic, he chose Ron Butlin‘s first novel, The Sound of My Voice. First published in 1994, this compelling book about a 34-year-old alcoholic biscuit company executive had sold only 100 copies until Mr Welsh name-checked his fellow Edinburgh writer. This was probably the most useful thing that Welsh had written since Trainspotting, because that small gem was picked up by Serpent’s Tail, which has gone on to do the decent thing and republish the sequel, Night Visits.

Reading Butlin‘s short tale of psychological torture in an Edinburgh nursing home, one wonders how it could have been so spectacularly ignored when it was published six years ago. ‘For the few weeks before his 10th birthday, Malcolm saw the world only through his reflection's eyes.‘ begins the book. What follows is a rich and lyrical tale seen alternatively from the perspective of a young boy whose father dies, and his spinster aunt. Butlin is perhaps better known as a poet but his prose has the same rich, lyrical quality as his verse. As one might expect, he also carries the themes of reflections and entrapment into his novel writing.

But here, Butlin‘s poetic imagination is more potent than when it's expressed in stanza form. He holds his subjects at a greater remove and as a result, their richness and complexity can be appreciated more fully. One can only hope that this delayed spasm of interest from critics and publishers alike will urge him on to further glories. (Tim Abrahams)

Rich, complex and potent



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