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Not Not While the Giro [Paperback]

James Kelman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

1 Aug 2007
"Not Not While The Giro" is James Kelman's first major collection of short stories - originally published by Polygon in 1983. The reader follows the lives of young men, social misfits, whose lives are spent waiting - waiting for their next giro or menial job - in the pub, the dole office, the snooker table and the greyhound track. This collection, written with irony and great tenderness, confirmed James Kelman's status as one of the most significant writers in the UK, and remains as powerful, relevant and truthful as it was in the early 1980s.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (1 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846970385
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846970382
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 307,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

James Kelman was born in Glasgow in 1946. After leaving school at 15 he worked in the printing industry and as a bus driver. In 1971 he attended creative writing night classes and in 1973 an American company published his first collection of short stories, An Old Pub Near The Angel. Greyhound for Breakfast won the 1987 Cheltenham Prize; A Disaffection won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; How late it was, how late won the 1994 Booker Prize amidst a storm of controversy. He has also written many plays for stage and radio. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and family.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
As short story collections go, this one is way better than average, because the young author sticks to the world he knows and does not pretend to have any great new ideas, or literary pretentions. This is simply street writing by someone we can easily believe has been there himself. The language is very fresh and completely unpolished, although the way it's written, especially in the excellent title story, achieves poetry. It was no surprise the author later went on to win the Booker prize.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile for the Strongest Stories 29 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback
This book was published in 1983 and contained 26 short stories. It was the author's first large collection published in the U.K.

The locations were often unnamed but assumed to be Glasgow and its surroundings. A few of the stories had settings elsewhere, such as London or Manchester.

Just over half were written in the first person. Some of these were little more than vignettes: "He Knew Him Well," about the desperate circumstances of an old pensioner, and Wee Horrors," which ended atmospherically with a parent searching an abandoned tenement for his children. Other stories were longer. A few of these were stream-of-consciousness monologues: "Nice to Be Nice," a narrator's blackly humorous recounting of a series of misfortunes; "No Longer the Warehouseman," about an angst-ridden older man's unsuitability for life; and darkest of all, "Not Not While the Giro," in which a younger man contemplated life and death while counting the days before his unemployment check arrived.

Other stories in the first person focused more on other people and external action: "The Hitchhiker," in which a man struggled to connect with a foreign woman; "The Bevel," in which a work crew was ill used by their manager; and "Remember Young Cecil," describing a pool player who prospered for a time before marrying and turning his attention on work. In it, maybe the least grim of the stories, in earlier days there'd been a sense of mateship among the men.

One of the monologues, "Nice to Be Nice," has been described as the author's earliest published attempt at phonetic transcription of a Scottish voice. From beginning to end, it read, for example, like "A hid tae stoap 2 flerrs up tae git ma breath back." The rest of the works were in standard English, more or less.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow but very, very sure. 13 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback
I'm not, naturally, a short story reader. Prefer to immerse myself in a novel I can see the length of. Also I don't know how best to read them, because to just go one after the other in a collection seems bad manners somehow. So this has been beside my bed since February, me attempting to fit one or two in inbetween novels.
And not having picked it up for some months, with only the last one to read, I have been totally transfixed by the final, title tale. If I didn't have Angela Carter's short stories to read this would return to my bedside to be begun again. But I do also have 'How later it was, how late' to read.

And having read other reviews I can concur with it inspiring one to write, since the voice is freeing, but have to say only one story in the whole book I found hard because of the dialect.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars title story a CLASSIC! 19 Sep 1999
By M. G. Ross VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A collection of superb short stories "Not Not While The Giro" is a classic in its field ."Jim Dandy" and "No Longer the warehouseman" similary describe the angst undergone by what the Tories and new labour might class as the Sub Species of Society.Brilliant Kafkaesque despair beneeath the humour.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile for the Strongest Stories 10 July 2011
By Reader in Tokyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was published in 1983 and contained 26 short stories. It was the author's first large collection published in the U.K.

The locations were often unnamed but assumed to be Glasgow and its surroundings. A few of the stories had settings elsewhere, such as London or Manchester.

Just over half were written in the first person. Some of these were little more than vignettes: "He Knew Him Well," about the desperate circumstances of an old pensioner, and Wee Horrors," which ended atmospherically with a parent searching an abandoned tenement for his children. Other stories were longer. A few of these were stream-of-consciousness monologues: "Nice to Be Nice," a narrator's blackly humorous recounting of a series of misfortunes; "No Longer the Warehouseman," about an angst-ridden older man's unsuitability for life; and darkest of all, "Not Not While the Giro," in which a younger man contemplated life and death while counting the days before his unemployment check arrived.

Other stories in the first person focused more on other people and external action: "The Hitchhiker," in which a man struggled to connect with a foreign woman; "The Bevel," in which a work crew was ill used by their manager; and "Remember Young Cecil," describing a pool player who prospered for a time before marrying and turning his attention on work. In it, maybe the least grim of the stories, in earlier days there'd been a sense of mateship among the men.

One of the monologues, "Nice to Be Nice," has been described as the author's earliest published attempt at phonetic transcription of a Scottish voice. From beginning to end, it read, for example, like "A hid tae stoap 2 flerrs up tae git ma breath back." The rest of the works were in standard English, more or less.

Of the 11 stories written in the third person, too many were mere vignettes. Of these, the most enjoyed were "An Old Pub Near the Angel," in which a Scotsman in England was baffled by ill treatment at a pub; and "Roofsliding," purporting to be an anthropological description of men's behavior in Glasgow. But there were also longer pieces: "Away in Airdrie," about a boy's ill treatment by a relative, and "The Chief Thing about This Game," in which a factory recruit tried to fit in and maintain his dignity. It's been a long time since I read a story that captured what it must feel like to work in this setting.

The stories were grim with occasional humor. The narrator or protagonist was always a man, typically someone on the dole, at the factory or in fieldwork. Typical problems, stated or not, were the lack of most things necessary for a satisfying life: sufficient money and food, a secure home, camaraderie and a meaningful job, a sense of purpose, and love or even sex. And yet despite everything, like Beckett's narrator in The Unnamable, the characters went on.

For this reader, the stories were strongest at conveying the point of view of a male character facing deprivation. At their best, they were very memorable. With the lesser stories, sometimes things became monotonous or -- occasionally in the longest stories -- too repetitive. There was a lack of pieces with other points of view: women, children (except for one work), families, with meaningful conversation between men and women, or within families. The scant reference by this author to any type of political action or awareness was a bit of a surprise.

Among the Scottish writing this reader has read so far, this writer stands out for his focus on the urban underclass, drinking, gambling and begging, wedded -- especially in the first-person stories -- to the bleakness of tone and grim humor. (Works by Muriel Spark often shared the tone, but her writing frequently recalled a god looking down on its characters, whereas Kelman writes from the inside, so to speak, and his characters come from a harsher world.) Kelman wasn't the first Scottish author to make heavy use of the Scottish vernacular -- predecessors in prose included James Hogg, William Alexander, S. L. Crockett, James Barrie, R. L. Stevenson and John Buchan in the 19th century, and Ian MacLaren, Neil Munro and Robert McLellan in the 20th -- but his use of it is contemporary and the most distinctive.

Excerpts:

"In fact I live in a single bedsitter with sole use of confined kitchenette whose shelves are presently idle. My complexion could be termed grey. As though he hadnt washed for a month your worship. Teeth not so good. Beard a 6 dayer and of all unwashed colours. Shoes suede and stained by dripping. Dripping!"

"It's a meal I need, a few pints, a smoke, open air and outlook, the secure abode. Concerted energy, decisive course of action. Satisfyingly gainful employment. Money. A decidable and complete system of life. Ungibberishness. So many needs and the nonexistent funds."

"I do not feel like telling my wife I am no longer the warehouseman and that next Friday I shall not receive the sum of twenty five pounds we had been expecting. A small wage. I told the foreman the wage was particularly small. . . . This is barely a living wage, I told him . . . . I am at a loss. At my age and considering my parental responsibilities, for example the wife and two weans, I should be paid more than twenty five pounds. I told the foreman this. It is a start he replied. Start f--k all I answered. It is the future which worries me."

"Wee Danny could pot a ball with a headcase at his back all ready to set about his skull with a hatchet if he missed. Nothing could put the wee man off his game."

"Mine you A hidny seen him much wioot that bunnet masell. He's goat 2 ir 3 strans a herr stretchin frae the back iv his heid tae the front. An the bunnet wis still lyin therr oan the pavement whin he wint doon fir it. Even the dugs widny go near it. It's a right dirty lookin oabjict bit then so's the auld yin's heid."
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