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Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canongate Classics) Paperback – 31 May 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; New edition edition (31 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841959073
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841959078
  • Product Dimensions: 33 x 2.5 x 50.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'I was absolutely knocked out by Lanark. I think it's the best in Scottish literature in the twentieth century.' Iain Banks --Iain Banks

About the Author

Alasdair Gray is an old, asthmatic Glaswegian who lives by painting, writing and book design. He is currently working on a book about his visual art, A Life in Pictures, copiously illustrated, to be published by Canongate in 2008.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A. Glen on 19 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
To review this book properly, I have to make two things totally clear first of all. One, this is probably my favourite book of all time; I've read it four times, studied it extensively at school and university, and written two dissertations on it. Secondly, it's a difficult book. it's opaque, occasionally frustrating, diverse to the point of fragmentation, and bloody massive.

The difficult elements of Lanark are tied in inextricable with the manner of conception. Gray began writing the novel in 1954, and finished it in 1976. Over the course of these twenty two years, the book went through a tremendous amount of redrafting, editing, scrapping and resurrecting. The negative side to this extraordinarily long genesis is that the book does at times seem overly divergent in prose style, and can even feel disjointed. The plus side is, of course, that the final result is an allegorical novel covering over twenty years of ideas, events, arguments and revelations from Gray's life, Scotland and the world in general.

The plot of the novel is half fantastical, half semi-autobiographical. The novel is split into four books, with 1& 2 mapping the life of Duncan Thaw, a Glasgow man based on Gray himself; Book 3&4 focus on Lanark, an amnesiac lost in the bizarre city of Unthank.

Gray makes use of many experimental techniques in the novel, including his own illustrations and creative typesetting, extensive use of pastiche, self-referential jokes, fake scholarly footnotes, references to imaginary chapters and various other devices. Take note; if extensive experimentation with text, language and the elements of construction of fiction do not appeal to you, you will probably find large sections of this book not to your taste, if not unreadable.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James Morton on 2 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
Having been an 'avid' reader since I first picked up a "William" book over fifty years ago, I must have read countless hundreds of novels over that time, 'Classic' or otherwise. "Lanark" sits easily in my top ten favourite novels ever. It is now rightly regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of all time, and contributes mightily to English Literature in general. Each and every time that I have recommended this novel to a 'reading' friend, they have thereafter warmly cherished this book and continue to hold it in the highest affection. But, so much for my meagre recommendations.
To properly 'review' "Lanark" would take me the rest of the day, and at least twenty-five pages of exegesis.
Just in passing then, I have heard this opus described as 'dense', 'opaque and 'difficult'- it isn't! You only have to read the opening paragraph to see that the prose is straightforward, if not downright dead-pan. Sentence structure is generally simple, and even honed-down, as the author seeks to convey his meaning as directly as possible. Having said that, "Lanark" is a vivid and luminous work, and is at times gut-wrenching and immensely sad. Indeed, Sadness seems to be at the absolute core of this book, and to inhabit every page.
We also note in passing the title of this novel: "Lanark - A Life in 4 Books". The novel deals with the Life of One Single Person only (with, of course, the concomintant cast of characters). Lanark and Thaw are the same person in other words, as so much seems obvious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By oldernwiser on 13 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very complex story.It works on several different levels.It's a bit uneven as it covers two charcters (who are actually one) with different names.
Not a book to be read casually but rather a book which requires time set aside purely for it.
I found it enthralling and would reccomend it for any serious reader but I can also understand perfectly well people who would not like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jujoo on 27 Dec 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A flight of imagination which will make you laugh, weep, contemplate life & the universe...and wish you were as much of a genius as Alasdair Gray. A true modern classic!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is so well worth reading, and I feel a bit lost now I have finished it!

I really feel like I have lived in other worlds after reading Lanark, I am sure I will read it again as well it is so quality.

It is a combination of a real-life type story about a boy/young man growing up - which is a real page turner, utterly gripping and convincing - and a fantasy of what the future might be like. The two are sort of connected but not so you'd really notice.

Like some other readers, I liked the boy/young man growing up part the best. It is brilliantly written in a very skilled and concise way, it sticks in your mind and is completely believable (apparently it is basically drawn from the author's life). However, I also enjoyed the fantasy parts even though I do not normally read that type of book - it was a foray into the unknown which appealed to my imagination in many ways.

There are a few bits that I felt a bit frustrated with (in the fantasy parts) because I could not quite see the point of them, but I kept going through these even if I did skim read a tiny bit....

I had the kindle edition which means you do not get the benefit of the amazing pictures drawn by the author. Also you might think it has got something wrong with it because it starts with 'Book 3' but it is supposed to be like that.

I recommend!
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