How Late It Was, How Late

How Late It Was, How Late

Book - 1995
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One Sunday morning in Glasgow, shoplifting ex-con Sammy awakens in an alley, wearing another man's shoes and trying to remember his two-day drinking binge. He gets in a scrap with some soldiers and revives in a jail cell, badly beaten and, he slowly discovers, completely blind. And things get worse: his girlfriend disappears, the police question him for a crime they won't name, and his stab at disability compensation embroils him in the Kafkaesque red tape of the welfare bureaucracy. Told in the utterly uncensored language of the Scottish working class, this is a dark and subtly political parable of struggle and survival, rich with irony and black humor.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, 1995, c1994.
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780393327991
Branch Call Number: KELMAN J
Characteristics: 373 pages ; 22 cm.


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Oct 03, 2014

I remember hearing about this book when it won the Booker prize in 1994 and was a somewhat polarizing choice, with one judge calling it crap, a critic describing the win as "literary vandalism" and Kingsley Amis complaining that it debases the use of vulgarity. Scottish novelist James Kelman's novel opens with its ex-con anti-hero waking up drunk and confused. He's arrested and beaten by the police and loses his sight, and spends much of the novel walking around blind. It's a somewhat unlikely mix of Beckett, Kafka, and "Ulysses." If you've read "Trainspotting," you'll be familiar with the use of Scottish idioms and colorful vulgarities (hope you like the c-word). Wikipedia describes the style as stream-of-consciouness, but that's not really accurate. The accumulation of coarse language and bleak events has both a hypnotic rhythm and a monotony. I would advise reading this in the darkest, most depressing bar you can find.


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