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If It Is Your Life
     

If It Is Your Life

by James Kelman
 

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A collection of short stories by the Booker Prize-winning Scottish master

Giving voice to the dispossessed and crafting stories of lives held in the balance, James Kelman reaches us all. Penetrating deeply into the hearts, minds, and desperation of characters who find themselves in everyday situations—in the hospital, at a bus stop, in a living

Overview

A collection of short stories by the Booker Prize-winning Scottish master

Giving voice to the dispossessed and crafting stories of lives held in the balance, James Kelman reaches us all. Penetrating deeply into the hearts, minds, and desperation of characters who find themselves in everyday situations—in the hospital, at a bus stop, in a living room with the endless roar of the vacuum cleaner and a distant wife—Kelman follows their streams of consciousness and brings their worries to life. With honesty and dark humor, he confronts the issues of language, class, politics, gender, and age—identity in all its forms.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/04/2014
The latest collection from Booker Prize-winning Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) is a scruffy volume of 19 stories, told in the author's trademark stream-of-consciousness, first-person style. Narratives zigzag throughout—protagonists ramble and travel the earth—yet only a handful of tales genuinely thrill. The title story, while somewhat charming, ruminates far too long on the neurosis of a college student (mostly concerning classism and sex) as he rides a bus to his hometown, and this lingering squashes any goodwill by the narrative's climax. Much better is the trifecta of "A Sour Mystery," "Man to Man," and "The Gate." In "A Sour Mystery," the adult male protagonist nervously walks with an ex-lover to a local bar. "Man to Man" finds a tavern patron ruminating on the idea of cowardice, to powerful effect. And in "The Gate," a grandfather buys a used bicycle for his grandson, only to get lost as he carries the contraption home. Men of a similar age also inhabit "The Third Man, or else the Fourth," a story wound around a group of older gents as they sit around a makeshift fire and discuss local news while waiting for a horserace. Though uneven, Kelman's collection is versatile. (July)
From the Publisher
“Kelman’s language is immediately exciting; like a musician, he uses repetition and rhythm to build structures out of short flights and circular meanderings. The working-class Glaswegian author knows exactly how his words will scathe delicate skins; he has a fine sense of attack.” —The New Yorker

"Feisty and poetic." —The Boston Globe

“A set of strange tales that both frustrate and delight…[Kelman] is certainly more experimental, as this…collection shows, and he’s also a lot funnier. As well as being a keen observer of society’s underclasses and disenfranchised, Kelman also has a great eye for the absurdity of everyday life, something which comes to the fore in this collection…His impeccable command of language continues to make him an easy writer to admire.” —The Independent
 
“As always, [Kelman’s] at his best when transforming a fairly narrow spectrum of underclass experience into something uniquely pitched between Beckett and vernacular realism.” —The Guardian

“A masterful composer, Kelman makes writing look easy, and then infuses it with a sense of gravitas that can be, at times, breathtaking, in his own modest way.”  —Booklist (starred review)
 
"This stuff is bloody brutal, and absolutely perfect." —New City Lit

“In Kelman’s hands, words are deployed so seemingly realistically but, of course, so artfully, they feel closer to reality than hard truth. This collection is teeming with life, and with death, or worse, and, as the title indicates, it is our lives he is writing about, ours all. It is a tour de force from a writer who treats language as carefully as if it were gold, and ends up turning it into something even more precious.” —The Herald (Scotland)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590516232
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
07/15/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
2 MB

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Read an Excerpt

“Bangs & a Full Moon”
A fine Full Moon from the third storey through the red reflection from the city lights: this was the view. I gazed at it, lying outstretched on the bed-settee. I was thinking arrogant thoughts of that, Full Moons, and all those awful fucking writers who present nice images in the presupposition of universal fellowship under the western Stars when all of a sudden: BANG, an object hurtling out through the window facing mine across the street.
 
The windows on this side had been in total blackness; the building was soon to be demolished and formally uninhabited.
 
BANG. An object hurtled through another window. No lights came on. Nothing could be seen. Nobody was heard. Down below the street was deserted; broken glass glinted. I returned to the bed-settee and when I had rolled the smoke, found I already had one smouldering in the ashtray. I got back up again and closed the curtains. I was writing in pen & ink so not to waken the kids and wife with the banging of this machine I am now using.

Meet the Author

James Kelman, a writer of novels, short stories, plays, and political essays, was born in Glasgow in 1946. He won the Cheltenham Prize for Greyhound for Breakfast (1987) and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for A Disaffection (1989), which was also short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. His fourth novel, How Late It Was, How Late, won the Booker Prize in 1994. Kelman was awarded the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award in 1998. His short-story collection The Good Times (1999) won the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. In 2008 he won Scotland’s most prestigious literary award, the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award, for Kieron Smith, Boy. He is the author of a television screenplay, The Return (1991), and has written many plays for radio and theater. Kelman has taught creative writing at the University of Texas, Goldsmiths College of the University of London, and the University of Glasgow. His most recent novel, Mo Said She Was Quirky, was published by Other Press in 2013.

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