Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Alex's Review - How Late it Was, How Late - James Kelman

You're gony have to read this book. There's nay doubt about it, nay doubt.

Of course, if you're easily offended by strong language aye, then it's probably no for you.

For a potty mouth like me it was aye a bit of a shock like.

Of course I was completely sucked in by the Scottish accent. It was hard going though. I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to end. With a hundred pages left I was telling anyone that was willing to listen that I deserved a bloody medal for finishing it. I read bits out aloud to the family so they knew what I was dealing with. Well, it just about made Bel's boyfriend fall off his chair in shock at a girl's mother speaking like that. The hubby pronounced it poetry aye. I suspect it's a bloke's book by and large and I'd welcome a discussion with blokes about it.

We are introduced to Sammy as he wakes up from a really bad hangover.....slumped in the corner of a pavement somewhere, wearing someone else's sneakers. He is the perfect anti-hero. I spent most of the book wishing he'd have a bath and a shave. Simple things aye but they really got on me nerves. Does anything happen?...well yes, in a way....You're on the edge of your seat most of the time waiting for it to happen. If you want to witness character development on a grandiose scale then this is the book for you. I felt I knew every inch of Sammy by the end. As readers, we're living and breathing his stream of consciousness, which is exhausting but I was up for the challenge.

Philosophers have argued about what constitutes reality since time immemorial. "What's reality?" they debate amongst themselves..."Is it me or is it you?...Is it this chair or is it this glass of wine?" Obviously some poor wretch is making the bed and cleaning the bath while they pontificate and excruciate over the wretched question. There was a bit of me that wondered while reading this novel..."Is it all in Sammy's head?" Which led me to the next philosophical thought...."How much of our life happens in our head?" Now you're probably thinking - "She's getting all philosophical like that Alex Daw." Aye - mebbe. But it's a fact isn't it? You cannay get away from the voice in your head. You try and avoid it like but it's always there - lurking....waiting to catch you. Commenting on your cleaning of the bath - ooh, it's not like your mam used to do it. Urging you to get on with that reading for Uni so you don't get behind like. Helping you tackle your life - or not, as may be the case.

Some would argue that this scumbag of a character is not worth knowing. But who are we to judge? If you got thumped by a scumbag like Sammy, you'd want to know what provoked him wouldn't you? Well, I would. But then I'm different. I've got that voice in my head. Have you? What does your voice say? Does it endlessly repeat itself ? Does it have a cute accent? Does it love you very much? Does it love anyone else? What makes it change its pitch? Does it keep you together?

Well I didn't get a medal but I did finish this book. As you would expect from an anti-hero, Sammy exits stage left at the end of the novel still wearing those wretched toe-pinching sneakers. And I was gunning for him too. Now that's a sign of a good book isn't it? - that even if it's a bloody struggle, you want to get to the end...to see what happens like.

I'd best get to scrubbing that bath, now...like....mebbe...aye.


  1. Excellent review! I just love the way you wrote some of it in Sammy-speak :)

  2. Yes - well I tried to leave out some of the more colourful language! It took me back to when I was a wee bairn living in Edinburgh. I used to think that the char was speaking kindly to me saying "Awa thee noo" until a friend translated it for me a couple of years ago as Away with you now!!! Ignorance is bliss :)

  3. P.S. I was interested that we all had different covers for this book. I think I was the luckiest by far and looked at the cover frequently for inspiration :)

  4. Great review!! I just finished it too and I think we BOTH deserve medals...