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A Disaffection [Hardcover]

James Kelman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, 31 Dec 1989 --  
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Book Description

31 Dec 1989
The central character of this novel is Patrick Duffy, a 29-year-old teacher in a comprehensive school. Disaffected, frustrated and bitter at the system he is employed to maintain, he begins his rebellion, fuelled by drink and his passionate, unrequited love for a fellow teacher.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc (31 Dec 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374140243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374140243
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 13.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,111,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"With this novel James Kelman revelas a talent so huge in today's terms that one is tempted to mention Zola and Beckett" Independent "His style is endlessly inventive, his characters have huge souls and his point of view is uncompromising. If people don't start listening, they only have themselves to blame" Observer "Kelman has artistry, authenticity and a voice of singular power. A Disaffection leaves one reassured and indeed optimistic about the state of British literature today." Independent

Book Description

The endlessly inventive and gripping story of one man's rebellion and passion --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kelman's masterpiece 21 Feb 2009
I've read this book 3 times now. It really speaks to me, so it might to you if you're thinking of reading it. Don't be put off by the negative comments. Get it from your library if you don't want to risk a few quid.

What I want to say is how funny I find this story. Yes, nothing much happens but a good writer can make the "ordinary" exceptional through their perceptive insight.

It is not heavy going though being from Glasgow probably helps a wee bit in the reading of local dialect.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important novel of the 1980s 23 May 2001
By A Customer
Pat Doyle is a 29-year-old teacher who hates his job, and develops a crush on a fellow colleague, Alison. The story opens when he picks up a pair of pipes from outside the art centre. Throughout the novel he treats the pipes, and Alison, as a means of escapism - to the point of obsession. Naturally, it looks as if neither of these desires will transpire to much, mainly because Pat appears to be a dreamer. Even when he seems to take positive steps, we are sceptical.
Kelman uses familiar surroundings and dialect to create something entirely original. Like A Chancer, there's a sense of frustration when the main character seems so trapped - usually due to a lack of money and motivation. This could be said to mirror Kelman's own life; in an interview he's mentioned that his wife still has to work at the Social Security, despite him winning the Booker Prize for his novel How Late it was, How Late.
The key to the success of this book - aside from the deep sense of character so common in Kelman's work - is in the experimental language. There are traces of Joycean stream-of-consciousness, but with none of the pretension attributed to copyists, and, most importantly, no sense of the confusion common in Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. We may not know all of the literary references, but we definitely understand.
This is one of the most important novels of the 80s - if not ever. It's certainly one of Kelman's best.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard going 1 Dec 2006
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I guess James Kelman isn't everyone's cup of tea. He seems (from reading only two of his works!) to do interior monologue of down at heel, ordinary folk very well. The trouble is, the interior monologue of down at heel, ordinary folk can be quite repetitive and rather dull. And, in case anyone is wondering, nothing happens. There isn't some brilliant twist that pulls it together at the end. Wysiwyg.

Having read A Disaffection, I feel that I know Patrick Doyle pretty well.I understand his failings and inadequacies. I understand how he is envious of his brother's family, as his brother is envious of Partick's education and job. I understand how hopeless is his infatuation with Alison and his inability to deal with women. But I'm not sure it was worth investing two weeks of very slow reading to get to this point. Maybe I'm just shallow...

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the book. Neither do I imagine it will fade from the memory as quickly as the latest murder mystery. It is a deep study of human nature. But I'm quite glad now to have my hands on a murder mystery as an antidote.
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3 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars depressing tedium 24 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Goes nowhere, does nothing except depress the reader (which may be the whole point of course, but who *really* wants to spend a couple of days with this guy?), "experimental" techniques with language = mostly poor writing (in my opinion of course!). A book that those who like to think they are in the know will love, but that most people will reject or give up as the hopeless tosh it is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like you're living in somebody's head 19 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I guess there's no easy way into a James Kelman novel. He is not the most accessible of writers to non-native readers because he uses the language of the vernacular to capture the essence of daily thought and speech patterns of the Scottish working class. Authentic it may well be, this style of writing is nevertheless limiting in its readership appeal. Thus, it was with some reservation that I began on "A Disaffection", my first Kelman novel. After stumbling around a bit with familiar looking words spelled funny and expletives that scream at you from nearly every line, I got into a rhythmn and found myself on the way to a strange journey that's not without its appeal. Kelman's stream of consciousness style means that we stay very much within the confines of our hero Patrick Doyle's mind. Nothing much happens but that's the point. Pat is a university graduate from a working class background, who hates and despises his job as a teacher, believes he is polluting the minds of the children he teaches with useless capitalist thoughts, secretly falls for Alison, a fellow teacher who's married, but is too scared to declare his intentions, and ends up being transferred to another school but cannot remember having asked for the transfer. It's bad enough that he's paralysed by inaction, his elder brother, Gavin, an unemployed builder, harbours a secret resentment against Pat for being the educated one in the family, not realising his lonely plight. The novel begins with two sets of pipes that Pat finds at the back of the Arts Club, intending to use as musical instruments. He never gets round to it. That's the story of his life. The pipes are a symbol of his private ambitions. They are painted and shiny but he never gets round to playing them at the nightclub after work. "A Disaffection" is remorseless in its pessimism and criticism of the state of Scottish society but it's also infused with so much good humour and honesty you leave the embattled scene not necessarily unscarred but alive. My first taste of Kelman may have been fraught with some initial difficulties but you get the hang of it and the final verdict is a thumbs up.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What A Lovely Muddle 5 Jun 2010
By Daniel Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ah dear, another one of those Kelman books which, if it doesn't lull you into the Scottish, Glaswegian dialect of the endless verbal circumlocutions of our very disaffected schoolteacher protagonist, of sorts - one Patrick Doyle - isn't going to catch your fancy. A pity, for this is really quite a lovely book. No, it doesn't pack the wallop of Kelman's later, Booker-winning masterpiece "How Late it Was, How Late," but this is as it should be. This book - despite the ambience of grim Glasgow in the 1980s - brims over with humour, sweetness and light.

Doyle plods around Glasgow and its environs, mooning over a fellow schoolteacher he's never going to get (She's married.). He obsesses about all manner of recondite lore including Pythagoras and the German Romantic poet Holderlin, dragging the reader along with him down these esoteric byways with no end in sight.
One is never quite sure as to which way the narrative is going to turn until it veers into the kitchenette in brother Gavin's and sister-in-law Nicola's flat. But I'll leave that scene for the reader to discover.
Some might say that this is a meandering, nearly solipsistic, navel-gazing exercise in gazing into the past. To which Pat Doyle would make reply:

"But this is because he was a single chap and single chaps are single persons ergo they dwell on the past and there is nothing wrong in dwelling on the past. How can you dwell on the future? There is nothing to dwell on! It doesni exist. It is a blank. Everything has yet to take place. This is what the future is, the place where things have yet to occur. So how can you dwell on that? You're cheating. Okay but just think of it as an empty room. No. Well then.... "

And he goes on and on. And if the reader didn't at least notice a wee smile crossing his/her face whilst reading this excerpt of Pat's musings, then this book is nae for the likes of him/her!
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ach. I didni like it, no. 2 Aug 2005
By S. Terry - Published on Amazon.com
I began 'A Disaffection' enthusiastically. Aside from the brilliant Glaswegian vernacular and some tasty morsels of cynicism, however, the book felt long, slowly paced, and overdrawn. Doyle's character and predicament -- his disillusionment, like of drink, near-obsession with co-worker Alison, and fascination with cardboard pipes, of all things -- are largely described and summed up within the first two pages. Literally. After these, everything is redundant. Doyle is dissatisfied, and true to the title, disaffected; you'll likely feel the same after reading this novel.
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