‘A WRITER SHOULD BE LIKE A
CARPENTER WHO CAN MAKE
TABLES AS WELL AS CHAIRS'
Islands in extreme
The Stornoway Way may raise a few eyebrows among KEVIN MACNEIL’s less open-minded neighbours. Doug Johnstone speaks to a writer with few regrets.
ife in the llebrides can be beautiful. but it can
also be brutal. something Lewis native Kevin
MacNeil knows all about. The acclaimed poet has chosen life on his home island as the topic of his debut novel. The .S'tornmi'uv Way. and the resultant tale is a triumph of vibrant storytelling. a coruscating. rattling story which is hilarious one moment. heartbreaking the next. ‘I wanted to set a novel in Lewis because it‘s been a long. long time since a decent novel was written about Lewis by somebody from Lewis.’ he says in his distinctive lilting accent. ‘I came tip with quite a dark character to be the narrator.
and while I wanted the book to have quite a lot of
humour in it. I also wanted the narrator to say something that was maybe quite provocative.‘
Provocative it certainly is. The narrator. R Stornoway (‘arse torn away‘: get it‘.’). is a self— dcstructive drunken aspiring artist who views life on the island in the bleakest of terms. his nihilism matched only by his black sense of humour. The book tackles several themes. from the psychological and cultural pressures of island life to the marginalisation of the (iaelic language. Seen through Stornoway‘s eyes. Lewis becomes a place of unspeakable boredom and claustrophobic narrow-mindedness. You have to wonder when reading it whether MacNeil. who is still resident on the island. was worried that the book might not go down too well with more conservative islanders.
‘Well. it had a fairly non-committal review in a local paper.‘ he laughs. ‘But I think as long as people remember it‘s a novel. and not in the slightest bit autobiographical. then I don‘t think there should be
too much of a problem. Having said that. l was
apprehensive about it. but I think that the kind of
person who would be offended by the book isn‘t the kind of person who would read it in the first place.‘
MacNeil has already won acclaim and awards in equal measure for his poetry. both in linglish and Gaelic. and the writer didn‘t feel any trepidation in moving from verse to long fiction. ‘I felt confident. because if you can write poetry then you know how to construct a carefully crafted sentence and that‘s always going to come in handy if you want to write a literary novel.‘ he says. ‘If you‘re a writer you should be like a carpenter who can make tables as well as chairs. 1 don‘t agree with anyone who says that poets can only write poetry. playwrights can only write plays. If you have the skill with words then you should be able to turn your hand to any form.‘
Indeed MacNeil is not one to be constrained in his writing. (‘urrently finishing off a play set to tour Scotland in the autumn. the author has also recently dabbled in musical collaboration. releasing a single with ex-Astrid frontman and fellow Lewis native Willie Campbell. Plus he‘s well into a second novel. Singing for the Blue Man. ‘The only thing that my books have in common is that every one couldn‘t be more different from the previous one.‘ he says. ‘So the new book is going to be a very different novel in style. theme and flavour to T/H’ .S'rornou'uv Wuv.‘ Different. but no doubt equally as impressive.
The Stornoway Way is out now published by Hamish Hamilton.
Events are listed by date, then city. Submit listings at least ten days before publication to firstname.lastname@example.org. Listings are compiled by Jules Graham.
I Robin Hobb Back with a sparkly new fantasy trilogy. the sciefi author reads from the first of the trio Shamans Crossing. Borders Books, 98 Buchanan Street. Glasgow, 22? 7700. Thu 4 Aug. 6pm. Free.
I Pan MacMillan Authors Party Join top sci fi authors including Justina Robson, China Mieville and Peter F Hamilton in store as they meet fans and discuss their latest work. Borders Books. 98 Buchanan Street. Glasgow. 9?? 7700. Fri 5 Aug. 6.30 8.30pm. Free.
I Terry Brooks Glasgow's summer love affair with all things sci—ti continues with a signing session with the author (pictured) of the best-selling Shannara novels. l/l/aterstone's. 753~ 757 Sauchieha/l Street, Glasgow, 332 9705. Sat 6 Aug, 7pm. Free.
I It’s Renga Time Come and compose your own renga, or linked poem, with poet Jim C Wilson. No experience necessary. though a familiarity with haiku is an advantage. Scottish Poetry library, 5 Crichton's Close. Canongate. Edinburgh, 557 2876. Sat 6Aug. 7—4pm. £5.
I Paul Sutherland The Canadian—British poet reads from his enlightening new collection Seven Earth Odes. Borders Books. Unit 26, Fort Kinnaird Retail Park. Edinburgh, 65/ 404 7. Sat 6 Aug. 4pm. Free.
I Jeffery Deaver US based crime author Deaver reads from his latest thriller. The Twelfth Card. Waterstone 728 Princes Street.
Edinburgh, 226 2666. Mon 8 Aug. 6pm. £73; redeemable against purchase of the book.
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