This is a complex and deeply moving work. Although it has to be largely classified as a "memoir" it is much more than that; it is an account of how a young man from Cowdenbeath moved gradually towards becoming the accomplished writer "John Burnside", via Corby, the Cambridge Tech, Fulbourn Mental Hospital, and a few other places. Yet it is only a "memoir" in the same sense that James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a "memoir"; it, like Joyce's book, is also an "apologia", an account of how the writer began to move from a relatively ordinary and aimless young man towards the extraordinary writer he has become. In the process, recollections of his life and some of its events are mixed with accounts of influences on his work, ranging (amongst others) from rock musicians, jazz singers, the photographer Diane Arbus, the haunting landscape of Finnmark in northern Norway, and Cambridge drug culture of the 1960s. W.B. Yeats wrote, "A poet writes always of his personal life, in his finest work out of its tragedy, whatever it be, remorse, lost love, or mere loneliness". This is, indeed, such a work. It will not be for everyone, as it is challenging, but I suspect that this is a book which will endure.