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Lanark: Life in Four Books (Canongate Classics) Paperback – 28 Aug 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; New edition edition (28 Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841951838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841951836
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 496,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Alasdair Gray's first novel Lanark (first published in 1981) immediately established him as one of the most important Scottish voices of his generation and this astounding work as one of the key British novels of the last century. Magnificent in its reach and unequalled in the adulation of its critical response, Lanark is a massive book.

Perversely we start our reading with Book 3--the hero of this and the last book in the quartet, the eponymous Lanark, lives in a bizarre and fantastical future in a grey, dreary city called Unthank. He doesn't remember how he got there nor who he really is. He hangs around a local cafe with some other young people whose values and mores he can't quite figure. All around people are disappearing. Then he contracts dragonhide... and disappears too. He wakes in an institute and is told the sad but instructional tale of Duncan Thaw (the boy he used to be, the boy, in a sense, Alasdair Gray used to be).

Duncan, unknowingly speaking of the epic of which he is the centre, who we meet as a child and watch grow into an artist , says "I want to write a modern Divine Comedy with illustrations in the style of William Blake." And it is Duncan's story that is the heart of Lanark--and what a poignant, heart-breaking tale it is. From a boy who can never accept or offer or understand love, who cannot connect, to an artist who cannot accept that he cannot have the final word--both in his own life and in his art--Duncan's tale is a beautifully crafted coming-of-age story.

Lanark is a work of huge imagination and wonderful range; it is about all of our selves, how we make them and make them up; it is about place and what that means for identity and it is about love--how we can learn to love our selves, or fail to, how we need to love, both ourselves and others, to create communities in which we can create art that will promote a continuing project of place in which we can love each other better. Lanark is peerless. --Mark Thwaite --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'A quite extraordinary achievement, the most remarkable thing in Scottish fiction for a very long time.' -- Scotsman

'An ambitious and marvellously inventive novel.' -- Malcolm Bradbury

'Remarkable ... Lanark is a work of loving and vivid imagination, yielding copious riches.' -- Times Literary Supplement

'Undoubtedly the best work of fiction written by a Scottish author for decades.' -- Time Out --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 May 2004
Format: Paperback
I was recommended LANARK by a friend and was absolutely bowled over by it - and completely ashamed that I'd never heard of Gray before now.
It's very difficult to describe what the book is about - it has two parallel stories, one of a young idealistic artist in Glasgow trying to develop his art in thankless surroundings; the other of a loner in Unthank, a version of Hell (or Glasgow) trying to save his city (Unthank - or Glasgow) from the depredations of industrial capitalism and the onslaught of big business.
The book is elegiac, wise, beautifully written, very clever, hilarious in points, self-parodying and full of wonderful satire. It is also full of engaging charaters, and has a great storyline. Impossible here to depict how the halves intertwine, or the sheer energy of Gray's fiction.
He took 25 years to write this book - it was worth it. One of the classics of the 20th century. Buy it, read it, give it to your friends!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Jan. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I first read this book in the late 1980's, and have kept coming back to it ever since. I've read it in its entirety three times now, and shall no doubt read it again. It is absolutely superb - engaging, challenging, bizarre, beautifully written. It lends the lie to the notion that experimental fiction has to be 'difficult'. Somehow Gray manages to take on just about every important philosophical theme without ever losing sight of the fact that it is the characters, with all their human frailties, that ultimately engage us.
For its sheer ambition and imagination, as well as distinctiveness of voice, this book deserves its place in the canon of great experimental literature - alongside Joyce, Woolf, Kafka, Beckett and the other greats.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Nov. 2001
Format: Hardcover
To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the first publication of Alasdair Gray's "Lanark", Canongate have re-issued it in a lavishly-printed four-volume hardcover edition, complete with splendid reproductions of Gray murals and paintings on the covers of each volume. Given that Gray famously intended the component books of "Lanark" to be read in one order but eventually thought of in another, there's a case for saying that this edition is really the first to reflect the shape Gray wanted the book to have. With any Alasdair Gray book, the visuals are as much a part of the package as the words, and both deserve the best possible presentation so this edition of "Lanark" has a fair claim to being essential for anyone interested in Gray's writing. This edition also includes Gray's own wry account of the making and reception of "Lanark".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had heard Lanark described as a Glaswegian cult classic but I didn't quite know what to expect. There are two narrative threads. Books 1 and 2 are written in a fairly conventional and naturalistic style and tell the story of Duncan Thaw as he moves through a pretty unhappy childhood into an equally unhappy adolescence. His burning ambition is to paint and he takes on the mammoth task of a church mural. He receives no payment for this and in the end it is rejected by the church hierarchy. Thereafter he sinks into depression and breakdown.

Books 3 and 4 describe the strange dystopic parallel world of Unthank and the adventures of Lanark. This is a surreal place - a mixture of sci-fi, Kafka and horror comics. Here the normal rules of reality have broken down. Although the book could be read as two separate narratives it soon becomes clear that Unthank is an allegorical Glasgow and Lanark is another version of Thaw. There are other parallels - for instance the eczema that Thaw suffers from and the dragon skins of the inhabitants of Unthank. It is a
The story of Duncan Thaw was excellent - touching without being sentimental, a beautiful evocation of childhood and adolescence. Not being a fan of science fiction I was less enthralled by the Unthank sections - although I appreciated the vigorous language and the massive flow of ideas.

You can play at "Spot the Influences" - Kafka, Joyce, Orwell etc. In fact Gray, in one of many comic touches, includes a list of "embedded Plagiarisms" which stretches over fifteen pages! Lanark is very much a political book - in the Institute of Unthank the patients are used as food for the staff (an allegory for capitalism in action?). The plot also involves pollution, environmental degradation and over-population.

It is not easy to sum up Lanark in a few words. It is ambitious, quirky, funny and challenging. Quite an achievement!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i can't say that i completely understood it all, and at times i was bored, but when i was captivated it was astonishing. in some parts it felt like a history of the world in a few short words. no mean feat by the author. four stars awarded only because of my own intellectual limitations. i am hoping a future read will elevate the rating. the lush boxed-set packaging makes it a treat to own.
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