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James Kelman is Scotland's most influential contemporary prose artist. This is a book-length study of his groundbreaking novels, analysing and contextualising each in detail. It argues that while Kelman offers a coherent and consistent vision of the world, each novel should be read as a distinct literary response to particular aspects of contemporary working-class language and culture. Historicised through diverse contexts such as Scottish socialism, public transport, emigration, ‘Booker Prize’ culture and Glasgow's controversial ‘City of Culture’ status in 1990, the book offers readings of Kelman's style, characterisation and linguistic innovations. This study resists the prevalent condemnations of Kelman as a miserable realist, and produces evidence that he is acutely aware of an unorthodox, politicised literary tradition which transgresses definitions of what literature can or should do. Kelman is cautious about the power relationship between the working-class worlds he represents in his fiction, and the latent preconceptions embedded in the language of academic and critical commentary. In response, the study is self-critical, questioning the validity and values of its own methods. Kelman is shown to be deftly humorous, assiduously ethical, philosophically alert and politically necessary.

Stephen Howe

in South Africa – and their politico-cultural world remained a distinctively Scottish one even in ‘exile’, as they always remained closely in touch with left-wing politics and writings ‘at home’. 14 John MacKenzie too has (alongside his explorations of emigrant Scots’ roles in fields like business, religion and medicine) noted how widely Scottish socialism travelled; wherever

in Scotland, empire and decolonisation in the twentieth century
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Daniel Lea

, particularly in Be Near Me and The Illuminations, O’Hagan addresses the existential condition of the isolated consciousness at moments of moral crisis, he customarily positions that drama within the broader context of social, political, or cultural life in millennial Scotland.3 He balances the personal and the public by employing his principal protagonists as litmus indicators of social trends: Jamie Bawn (Our Fathers) on the fate of Scottish socialism, Maria Tambini (Personality) and Marilyn Monroe (Maf) on celebrity culture, David Anderton (Be Near Me) on the Scottish

in Twenty-first-century fiction