Friday, May 16, 2008

Flower of Scotland

Not been a good week for Scotland has it? A load of Rangers fans behaved in a way which would have surprised not one rational person, Tommy Burns kicked the bucket and a bone fide working class hero has joined him in being carried up to heaven by the worms. Jeff Torrington is no more. He was no spring chicken and he had suffered from Parkinsons for years and I bet most of my loyal readership of 12, erudite as you all, will not have heard of him.

He was part of a group of Scottish writers who emerged in the seventies, which included Agnes Owens, the incomparable James Kelman and William McIllvanney and who wrote unashamedly, without sentimentality, and with an unwavering eye, about the working class. Forget the 1950's English grammar school boys, these lads and lasses were the real deal. The authentic voice of the working class and if they had all gone to Eton or bloody Westminster their work would have been set reading on the national curriculum for years.

He didn't get his first novel published until he was well into his fifties and already ailing, and to tell the truth, it is a difficult read. But it is inspiring, all those Scottish dudes are inspiring and they embarrass the shit out of the rest of the working class in this country. Read them, they are all touched by genius, well, Kelman is, anyway, but they do not shy away from their humble roots, and more importantly, they do not shy away from their own intellects, which was their problem. Most of the working class could not understand them and the hegemonic middle class intelligentsia were shit scared to be confronted by something so terrifyingly raw, intellectual and authentic.

The death of Jeff Torrington, who wrote about his early days in Glasgow's Gorbals, reminds us of when he won the Whitbread Prize for Swing Hammer Swing!. Asked why it took him 30 years to write it, he replied: "I couldn't find my pencil."

Kelman: "the intellectual life of working-class people is colonised. In a colonised country intellectual occupation takes place throughout society."

"These bastards think they own the language. They already own the courts. They own everything. They want to block your stories, and they will, if you let them."
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