Eyeless in Glasgow: James Kelman's Existential Milton



Hames S (2009) Eyeless in Glasgow: James Kelman's Existential Milton. Contemporary Literature, 50 (3), pp. 496-527.;

First paragraph: Critical reaction to James Kelman's 1994 Booker Prize was notoriously stormy. A large section of the British intelligentsia responded, John Linklater observed, with "a suppuration of racist, xenophobic class hatred" (8). James Wood published a vindication of the award stressing Kelman's affinities with Franz Kafka and James Joyce, but (Sir) Simon Jenkins's likening of the winner to an "illiterate savage" sticks longer in the public mind. Even Jenkins's colleagues at the London Times were bewildered by the ferocity of Kelman's detractors. "From some of the English reaction," Alan Chadwick observed, "you might have thought he had been found in the Queen's bedroom." But the Scottish reaction, too, was less than enthusiastic. A former lord provost of Glasgow, Dr. Michael Kelly, boasted of having "no intention" of reading the first (and to date only) Scottish winner of the prize but deplored the novel's language and politics nonetheless. Kelman's sudden cachet as a left-wing agitant even caught the attention of the shadow chancellor. Eager to shake an already dour public image, but ever wary of appearing too Scottish, too socialist, or too intellectual, Gordon Brown let it be known that he "hadn't made it to the end" of the book in question.

James Kelman; John Milton; existentialism; Scottish literature; Booker prize

Contemporary Literature: Volume 50, Issue 3

Publication date01/09/2009
PublisherUniversity of Wisconsin Press
Publisher URL…/50.3.hames.html

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Dr Scott Hames

Dr Scott Hames

Senior Lecturer, English Studies