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Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canongate Classics) [Paperback]

Alasdair Gray
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

31 May 2007 Canongate Classics
Lanark, a modern vision of hell, is set in the disintegrating cities of Unthank and Glasgow, and tells the interwoven stories of Lanark and Duncan Thaw. A work of extraordinary imagination and wide range, its playful narrative techniques convey a profound message, both personal and political, about humankind's inability to love, and yet our compulsion to go on trying. Widely recognised as a modern classic, Alasdair Gray's magnum opus was first published in 1981 and immediately established him as one of Britain's leading writers. Comparisons have been made to Dante, Blake, Joyce, Orwell, Kafka, Huxley and Lewis Carroll. This timely new edition should cement his reputation as one of our greatest living writers.

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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: 4.4 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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

Book Description

With a new introduction by William Boyd

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exceptional, difficult, incredible book. 19 Oct 2009
By A. Glen
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I've Not Had Enough" 2 Jan 2010
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Loved it. 18 April 2009
I bought this book after trawling the internet for a copy of Gray's 'Unlikely Stories, Mostly' collection and coming up fruitless. I'm glad I got this instead. I don't like to get into the plot or try to summarise a book too much in recommending it to others, and try to avoid cliches like 'social commentary', 'vivid imagery' and 'imaginitive', but Lanark is all of these and alot more (another cliche, sorry). I'm sure some people wouldn't like the odd separation of the four books that make up the titular 'life', but it's worth getting past this. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, entertaining & soulful 27 Dec 2013
By Jujoo
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Required reading....... 6 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'd been meaning to read Lanark since way back in the early eighties. It was always an expensive set of books and,as such, I always held off. Then it appeared on Kindle and I just had to have it. I'm glad I've read it but it's a heavy tome. Not my usual genre but thought provoking just the same. An intelligent, masterful book which I'll admit, had me struggling in parts. Ticked off my list but can't say it was my most enjoyable read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A memorable and enjoyable read 2 Sep 2013
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars In mining terms, there may be richer seams for most readers in the...
This is a very very very long book. Well four books in fact. DO NOT EMBARK on it/them unless you want to give up a sizeable chunk of your non-sleeping/eating/working/emailing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Poyser
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird or WHAT?
A gripping read. Not easy to 'like' in the Facebook kind of way, but a book that took must have taken some writing, that won't allow you to skip the boring bits and certainly not... Read more
Published 10 months ago by heartsease
5.0 out of 5 stars It was the best of times ....
Wait! No it wasn't. It was the worst of times (again!), I think. Or, the times were at least as bad as the last time. But, what's happened to time? And, what's happened to place? Read more
Published 19 months ago by Dick Johnson
2.0 out of 5 stars 500 Pages of Boredom
Alasdair Gray is my favourite author. That is why I was so shocked to find his most famous novel to be dull as dish water. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jonathon Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Scottish Classic
Gray's characters are overwhelmingly well put together and his style of prose is enchanting and amusing simultaneously. Read more
Published 21 months ago by bethanchloe
5.0 out of 5 stars Lanark: A life in 4 Books
I was already familiar with this book, which I had borrowed from our local public library, and I would definitly put it in the category as a modern day Scottish classic. Read more
Published on 14 April 2012 by Mr. J. FRIEDLANDER
2.0 out of 5 stars 3 (5) 1 (2) 2 (2) 4 (1)
My enjoyment of the first part of Lanark (Book 3... of course) was only matched by my disappointment with the last. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2011 by Rod Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect book?
After reading Lanark I feel like I can't enjoy other books as much because it was so f$cking good!

Felt like Anthony Burgess but with surreal more introspective... Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2011 by tootansimooon
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a glass of water in the middle of the desert
The title I gave to the review makes sense in the perspective of people who haven't got the luck to read a book which appeals to your visual imagination and is quite thoughtful in... Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2011 by ManInsideTheHelm
2.0 out of 5 stars Surreally Disappointing
After 50 pages I realised it was not going to get any better. The book starts in a grim and surreal city where anything can happen. Read more
Published on 18 Feb 2011 by Ransen Owen
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