on 23 September 2015
This book should come with a warning sticker: DO NOT READ ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT, a warning to be taken seriously unless you want your fellow passengers to give you scared looks and start trying to fund a seat further away from you as you snort, guffaw and shriek with uncontrollable laughter. (Though it could be a good way to ensure you get an entire railway carriage to yourself.) I say this as one who has read countless 'comic' novels while unable to raise so much as a smirk. Murdo, however, has me hooting every paragraph or so.
Of course it helps if you are familiar with life as lived in the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland, where eccentricity is treated as normal, and if you are lucky enough to live there (I do; smug face) you will recognise many of your friends and neighbours. (Murdo's political prospectus is only very marginally less loony than the real one we receive every year from one local candidate, believe me.) But even if you've never been north of Neasden there is much to enjoy about this engagingly crackpot character.
Of course, like all true crackpots, Murdo regards himself as supremely rational, the only sane man left in a crazy universe, desperately trying to rid his neighbours of such lunatic ideas as geography, public toilets and the like. (In Mudo's island-centric view there is no need for public toilets since every house has a lavatory and if you are 'caught short' away from home you should simply knock on a door and ask to use theirs, thus increasing neighbourliness and social harmony.)
It's said that Murdo character is Iain Cnrichton Smith's alter ego, but I'd say he is the alter ego of any abnormal, well-balanced person. Read these short stories and dream of how your life could be if only you, too, had the courage to wear a red hat at all times, and discourse on Kafka with baffled neighbours.
on 8 February 2016
i have fond memories of a time when i was privileged to hear iain crichton smith read a chapter from this book at a gathering in glasgow many years ago, what made it special was that he could barely contain himself as he was reading and laughed all the way through it, he was so infectious and his audience were in stitches, just thinking about it makes me want to look it out and read it again , great book.