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Ch ' t' The caffeine industry has wafted into the UK at an astonishing rate. Benjamin Obler tells David Pollock how he merged coffee with Scotland for his debut novel

I may he hard to recall noyy. but there ysas a time

when coffee shops yy‘eren‘t oy'er-running the world.

and certainly hadn’t eyen gained a foothold in Scotland. When Benjamin ()hler trayelled from his native Minnesota in I‘M-l to study Scottish Literature on an exchange programme in (ilasgoyy. he sayy no Starhucks on city centre street corners: to this .'\IiiL‘I'IL'llli. lllcll‘ illisc‘nc‘c‘ L'LIlIlL‘ It) symholise IIIL‘ cultural differences he felt. lift a coffee fiend.‘ says ()hler. ‘and it \\as pretty tough to find a decent cup in (ilasgoyy'. Not like that yy as life—threatening or anything. hut l'ye taken the whole subject to dramatic extremes in my hook. so that the ahsence of good coffee comes to sy inholise the experience of heing an American ahroad.‘

In ()hler\ dehttt noyel ./tl\‘(l.\'(‘(llltl. the author‘s fictional felloyy coffee gu//ler .\lel\'in l’odgorski isn‘t a student. htit rather a yottng adyance researcher for a [S coffee company that's looking to set tip a franchise in (il;lsgti\\'. It's a hook \y‘hich effortlessly

manoeuy‘res the ‘lish out of water" and 'coming of

age‘ genres (although ()hler hates this latter descriptionl against the hackdrop of the capitalist machine in action. The noy el is lengthy hut somehoyy

intimate. although ()hler‘s phonic Version of

Glaswegian speech is sometimes a hit oyeryy'orked. Still. details of the city are richly rememhered from his first year spent there and a return y isit to study for a Masters in (‘reatiy'e Writing in NUS.

‘Mely'in is remoy'ed from his old life which is a hard-working. fast-paced. amhitious Mid-Western one. Of course. that same kind of lifestyle exists in

30 THE LIST ‘9 him—Q At" JADE:

the l'ls'. yyherc you find a career path. get married and haye your offspring. But my time in (ilasgoyy inyolyed a certain liheration from that. so I let my protagonist enjoy a similar lifestyle. The perception of Scotland hy mainstream America is something I \yanted to address in the hook. So many people at home thought it \yas all heather-filled glens and Highland cattle roaming ey eryyy here. And many people I meet in America tell tne they‘re descended from a ('amphcll or a .\lacl)onald. or that they once look a trip oy‘cr. family tree in hand. looking for the Ultl croft.‘ Ill this respect. ()hler lays Hill the e\perience til. tll‘lian Scotland “w llis t'czltlcrslilp hack home as much as he rey isits his on n time here. .lut‘usi‘ori'u yyas started yyhile ()hler yy as studying ('reatiy'e Writing in (ilasgoys and finished in his neyy home city of Minneapolis. \\ here he \yorks in puhlishing. At the moment his second noyel is occupying his time. although 'it‘s set in America and it‘s ahout addiction is all he will say. ‘.\Iost things I yy rite deal with themes of failure. relationship anxiety. status an\iety. I‘m sure some of these” he in theref Recent efforts hay e also heen made to put a short story collection together. although (“dens agent doesn‘t approye. 'She says the market's dismal and that no one will pay money for a first-time author‘s collection. I think she‘s heing oyerly hleak. so I‘m going to perseyeref And he should. After all. so did the first guy yy ho opened a coffee shop in Glasgow.

Javascotia is published by Hamish Hamilton on Thu 26 Mar.



* Fiona J Houston This author spent a year dressing in 18th century clothes. growing her own produce and jotting it all down for The Garden Cottage Diaries. Meet her for a reading and signing. Borders Books, Edinburgh. Sun 22 Mar. * Manga workshop Meet Yishan Li. the Edinburgh-based Manga artist, who'll be talking budding illustrators through the wide-eyed. tiny-mouthed graphic art form. Borders Books, Glasgow, Sat 28 Mar. * Irregular The Canongate book team turn their attention to live club nights. with this launch featuring slam poets. readings, DJs and VJs. The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Thu 79 Mar.

* Benjamin Obler This Minnesotans debut novel Javascotia begins with the hunt for a decent cup of coffee in Glasgow. See preview, left. Hamish Hamilton.

* StAnza It's March, which means it's high time Fife hosted its Scotland's annual International Poetry Festival again, with live readings, exhibitions and dance performances. Byre Theatre, St Andrews, until Sun 22 Mar.

* Guid Crack Club The monthly storytelling club returns. gathering wordsmiths and blethers in a cosy High Street boozer. Waverley Bar, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Mar.

* Mark Millar More fantastical adventure from Coatbridge's own comic book superhero, with two new titles out this fortnight, 1985 and Fantastic Four: World '3 Greatest. See review, page 31. Marvel UK.

3|! Geoff Dyer A journalists' press junket to Venice provides this cynical Brit wit with a springboard for some soul searching. See review, page

31 . Canongate.