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How Late It Was How Late (Vintage Booker)

How Late It Was How Late (Vintage Booker) [Kindle Edition]

James Kelman
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

"Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things, just something keeps ye from doing it, why can ye no do it; the words filling yer head: then the other words; there's something wrong; there's something far far wrong; ye're no a good man, ye're just no a good man." From the moment Sammy wakes slumped in a park corner, stiff and sore after a two-day drinking binge and wearing another man's shoes, James Kelman's Booker Prize-winning novel How Late it Was, How Late loosens a torrent of furious stream-of-consciousness prose that never lets up. Beaten savagely by Glasgow police, the shoplifting ex-con Sammy is hauled off to jail, where he wakes to a world gone black. For the rest of the novel he stumbles around the rainy streets of Glasgow, brandishing a sawed-off mop handle and trying in vain to make sense of the nightmare his life has become. Sammy's girlfriend disappears; the police question him for a crime they won't name; the doctor refuses to admit that he's blind; and his attempts to get disability compensation founder in Kafkaesque red tape. Gritty, profane, darkly comic and steeped in both American country music and working-class Scottish vernacular, Sammy's is a voice the reader won't soon forget. --Mary Park


"Beautiful, spirited thoughts hard up against the old brute truths...enormous artistic and social depth...James Kelman's best book yet" (Guardian)

"Forging a wholly distinctive style from the bruised cadences of demotic Glaswegian, Kelman renders the hidden depths of ordinary lives in sardonic, abrasive prose which is more revealing of feelings that could ever be uplifting a novel as one could ever hope to read" (Sunday Telegraph)

"A passionate, scintillating, brilliant song of a book" (Independent)

"Gritty, realistic and bleak, but the overall tone is strangely positive. The fast pace of the narrative, Kelman's dry humour and the indomitable spirit combine to provide a liberating read" (Big Issue)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 538 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (30 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091R2MYU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,564 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very intense 26 Mar. 2007
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I have previously read two Kelmans - You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, and A Disaffection. From these two, I understood Kelman to be a master of the interior monologue of mundane/seedy characters. In YHTBC, it was a Scots alcoholoc in the USA, looking to return home. In Disaffection, it was a pretty hopeless teacher failing to hit it off with a pretty work colleague. I thought YHTBC was a masterpiece, but A Disaffection left me rather cold. The thing is, with these monologues, that you have to actually care about the character and his life - there's no plot or action worth speaking of, just a question of how the chaarcter got to the present situation and how they feel about it. The action is at best incidental.

In How Late It Was, How Late, the central character, Sammy (Mr Samuels) is a natural victim. He is afraid of authority and is hopelessly fatalistic. He wakes up after a bender, in the street, wearing rubbish trainers instead of his good shoes. He sees some policemen and picks a fight with them. He is arrested, beaten up and loses his sight. The monologue then sets out to explore how he came to be in that situation - apparently he is an ex-prisoner who has had a big row with his girlfriend; he also has an ex-wife and son; he has a reasonable set of friends; and a benefit dependency.

HLIWHL also explores how Sammy reacts to his sight loss. He initially curses his luck, but is fatalistically accepting, as he tries to find his way home from the police station. He has to decide how to become mobile and to feed himself. He is worried about losing his benefits (no longer available for work) so he sets off to the Broo. Sammy's natural instinct when dealing with authority is either to say nothing or to lie.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ulysses by Rab C. Nesbitt 21 May 2012
People seem to either like or hate this book, and it's not surprising to see why. It is 374 (in my Minerva edition paperback) pages of a single unending stream of consciousness, unleavened by chapters or other relieving mechanisms.
Sammy (short for his surname Samuels - we never do find out what his proper first name is, though I wonder privately if this Jewish-sounding name has any correspondence with the Jewish protagonist, Leonard Bloom, of Joyce's Ulysses) is a 38 year-old, failed criminal, alcoholic Glaswegian who, getting into a fight with two policemen after one too many benders, loses both his liberty and his sight - though he is let loose after a couple of days in the jug he is blind, whether permanently or not we never find out. Thereafter we follow Sammy's fractured, memory-impaired train of thought as he tries both to adjust to life without sight, and to make sense of what has happened to him in the time between going on his last bender and getting home to his girlfriend's flat.
Much of the flak "How late..." has received has been to do with the fact that it's written in demotic Glaswegian, as if narrated by Rab C. Nesbitt (in fact, despite my best efforts, I could only visualise Sammy as Gregor Fisher's addled tragicomic creation, rather than the angular, Jimmy Boyle-type thug that I earnestly tried to fix in my mind's eye). But I think that, if you can watch a film with subtitles or go to a live Shakespeare play, you should be able to cope with it - you just adjust to the cadence of the language, much as you do if you read anything by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (and HE hasn't received any flak that I know of, I'm glad to say, because he's a tremendous writer).
I'm not sure of the literary merits of "How late...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read 11 July 2008
By Delaney
I literally stumbled upon this book whilst roaming around the huge Borders bookshop in Glasgow. I found myself in the Scottish literature section and "How late was, how late" had fallen on the floor causing me to trip over it. Taking this as a cosmic sign I bought the book and scurried back to work. What a find it was.

The book is written as a continuous train of thought from the main character Sammy (the bold Sammy) who wakes up from a weekend long bender to find himself in a police cell worse for wear. What really makes this book interesting is the writing style which flows of the page. The language may be a problem for some as it is written in the Glasgow vernacular although the author avoids becoming too incomprehensible to anyone outside the central belt. All in a all a great read and possibly would be a regular on the top 100 lists if it was not for the use of Glaswegian slang in the writing which may put some off. If there is one criticism, and the reason for four rather than five stars, is that it does lag a little at times part way through the second half. Otherwise though add it too your Amazon basket today!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How late it was, how late 20 Dec. 2007
This book is completely brilliant. It is a tour de force; an uncompromising and relentless exploration of the psyche of a particular type of marginalised person. It may be, I suppose, that you need to have had some considerable contact with hard-man disaffected indiduals for whom the world does not, and has never, worked, to realise how good this book is. I was totally captivated by the exporation of a particluar type of psyche, where the same maladaptive thought processes occur time after time after time despite their failure to achieve anything in other than terms of a personal logic/ethic. At one time I recommended it as a student text in psychology. If you drive an Audi (or even a Volvo),are in favour of goodness and against sin, you may not like it. I found it totally compelling and unlike some other reviewers, I couldn't put it down.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Tenements and Tenacity...
I read this unusual book as part of a personal challenge to read all the Booker Prize winners, and Kelman won in 1994 with How Late it Was, How Late. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Goddard
5.0 out of 5 stars I found the book absolutely gripping and easy to pick up and put down
I found the book absolutely gripping and easy to pick up and put down. As I neared the end, I began to wonder how the author would tie up all the loose ends - there seemed to be so... Read more
Published 5 months ago by fiddlur
1.0 out of 5 stars Booker Prize In Your Eyes
Reviewers from the Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent and a selective group of Booker Prize judges all fell over themselves in praise of this novel. Why? Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. Dean Brand
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down
I'm a big fan of Irvine Welsh - based on that I was advised to take a look at Kelman. I prefer Welsh, but this is a very good read.
Published 22 months ago by Martin A. Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsive reading
Perfect writing gets the reader deep inside the head of the novel's character. No real plot, just a period in time, but very compulsive reading.
Published on 22 Jan. 2013 by glentana
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting
Story is told as a stream of consciousness, narrated by Sammy, a Glaswegian small-town crook who wakes up one morning blind after a particularly heavy drinking session and beating... Read more
Published on 20 Jan. 2013 by I. Sharpe
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of poignancy
This book will haunt me. I see Sammy on the streets most days. My empathy has grown. I thank the author for this in helping me erase some of my predudices. Read more
Published on 2 Nov. 2012 by Robby
1.0 out of 5 stars how crap it was how crap
This was without doubt one of THE worst books i have ever had the misfortune to read . I totally regret having paid my hard earned money on it . Read more
Published on 6 Oct. 2012 by snoutfish
5.0 out of 5 stars Despised by the misguided
I love the fact that many people simply hate this book. They don't get it. "How Late It Was How Late" is an ineffable literary masterpiece.
Published on 31 July 2012 by Flopot
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Mistake . . .
. . . "couthy" or "of the people" for good. This book is truly dreadful. Alasdair Gray can do it: Kelman can't.
Published on 30 April 2011 by Yellow Duck
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