EPS Review #200 - Lanark

Lanark, by Alasdair Gray, Canongate Classics 2002 (1981), 573pp.

I think Glasgow is a tough and original city like Liverpool, and feels that it should have world-famous artists to show for it. That may be why Lanark gets so much praise, because otherwise it is a very flawed work. I liked the beginning, which is surreal and Kafka-like (I can say this, because the author tells us as much in the horribly self-referential latter part of the book). The middle is an ordinary growing-up story of an awkward artist (sex-crazed, pubic lesions), which other book-club members thought was the best part. And the last section is just garbage -- I can't believe that many people get through it. Lanark meets the author in this part. Ugh.

Some of the writing is very good, especially the depictions of the unstoppable misunderstandings between men and women. And I will always remember Lanark's love for the girl who grows a dragon's skin, even if it is a pretty obvious metaphor for emotional isolation.

The conjuror's mouth and eyes opened wide and his face grew red. He began speaking in a shrill whisper which swelled to a bellow: "I am not writing science fiction! Science-fiction stories have no real people in them, and all my characters are real, real, real people! I may astound my public by a dazzling deployment of dramatic metaphors designed to compress and accelerate the action, but that is not science, it is magic! Magic! And as for my ending's being banal, wait till you're inside it."

Tom wrote: I liked this [quote], though I suspect I would not like the book. Merci for performing the excision. I recently wrote this to a friend: "In my experience (presque 47 years of carefully controlled double-blind studies), if it looks like magic, neuf fois sur dix it is magic."

Jeff wrote: I couldn't get past the first 100 pages and I am glad I didn't.