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How Late It Was How Late (Vintage Booker) by [Kelman, James]
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How Late It Was How Late (Vintage Booker) Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Length: 392 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Amazon Review

"Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things, just something keeps ye from doing it, why can ye no do it; the words filling yer head: then the other words; there's something wrong; there's something far far wrong; ye're no a good man, ye're just no a good man." From the moment Sammy wakes slumped in a park corner, stiff and sore after a two-day drinking binge and wearing another man's shoes, James Kelman's Booker Prize-winning novel How Late it Was, How Late loosens a torrent of furious stream-of-consciousness prose that never lets up. Beaten savagely by Glasgow police, the shoplifting ex-con Sammy is hauled off to jail, where he wakes to a world gone black. For the rest of the novel he stumbles around the rainy streets of Glasgow, brandishing a sawed-off mop handle and trying in vain to make sense of the nightmare his life has become. Sammy's girlfriend disappears; the police question him for a crime they won't name; the doctor refuses to admit that he's blind; and his attempts to get disability compensation founder in Kafkaesque red tape. Gritty, profane, darkly comic and steeped in both American country music and working-class Scottish vernacular, Sammy's is a voice the reader won't soon forget. --Mary Park


"Witty, irreverent and thoroughly engrossing.... Kelman is a major talent, and this is a bold, highly accomplished novel."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 852 KB
  • Print Length: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (30 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091R2MYU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,693 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
I have previously read two Kelmans - You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, and A Disaffection. From these two, I understood Kelman to be a master of the interior monologue of mundane/seedy characters. In YHTBC, it was a Scots alcoholoc in the USA, looking to return home. In Disaffection, it was a pretty hopeless teacher failing to hit it off with a pretty work colleague. I thought YHTBC was a masterpiece, but A Disaffection left me rather cold. The thing is, with these monologues, that you have to actually care about the character and his life - there's no plot or action worth speaking of, just a question of how the chaarcter got to the present situation and how they feel about it. The action is at best incidental.

In How Late It Was, How Late, the central character, Sammy (Mr Samuels) is a natural victim. He is afraid of authority and is hopelessly fatalistic. He wakes up after a bender, in the street, wearing rubbish trainers instead of his good shoes. He sees some policemen and picks a fight with them. He is arrested, beaten up and loses his sight. The monologue then sets out to explore how he came to be in that situation - apparently he is an ex-prisoner who has had a big row with his girlfriend; he also has an ex-wife and son; he has a reasonable set of friends; and a benefit dependency.

HLIWHL also explores how Sammy reacts to his sight loss. He initially curses his luck, but is fatalistically accepting, as he tries to find his way home from the police station. He has to decide how to become mobile and to feed himself. He is worried about losing his benefits (no longer available for work) so he sets off to the Broo. Sammy's natural instinct when dealing with authority is either to say nothing or to lie.
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Format: Hardcover
People seem to either like or hate this book, and it's not surprising to see why. It is 374 (in my Minerva edition paperback) pages of a single unending stream of consciousness, unleavened by chapters or other relieving mechanisms.
Sammy (short for his surname Samuels - we never do find out what his proper first name is, though I wonder privately if this Jewish-sounding name has any correspondence with the Jewish protagonist, Leonard Bloom, of Joyce's Ulysses) is a 38 year-old, failed criminal, alcoholic Glaswegian who, getting into a fight with two policemen after one too many benders, loses both his liberty and his sight - though he is let loose after a couple of days in the jug he is blind, whether permanently or not we never find out. Thereafter we follow Sammy's fractured, memory-impaired train of thought as he tries both to adjust to life without sight, and to make sense of what has happened to him in the time between going on his last bender and getting home to his girlfriend's flat.
Much of the flak "How late..." has received has been to do with the fact that it's written in demotic Glaswegian, as if narrated by Rab C. Nesbitt (in fact, despite my best efforts, I could only visualise Sammy as Gregor Fisher's addled tragicomic creation, rather than the angular, Jimmy Boyle-type thug that I earnestly tried to fix in my mind's eye). But I think that, if you can watch a film with subtitles or go to a live Shakespeare play, you should be able to cope with it - you just adjust to the cadence of the language, much as you do if you read anything by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (and HE hasn't received any flak that I know of, I'm glad to say, because he's a tremendous writer).
I'm not sure of the literary merits of "How late...
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Format: Paperback
This book is completely brilliant. It is a tour de force; an uncompromising and relentless exploration of the psyche of a particular type of marginalised person. It may be, I suppose, that you need to have had some considerable contact with hard-man disaffected indiduals for whom the world does not, and has never, worked, to realise how good this book is. I was totally captivated by the exporation of a particluar type of psyche, where the same maladaptive thought processes occur time after time after time despite their failure to achieve anything in other than terms of a personal logic/ethic. At one time I recommended it as a student text in psychology. If you drive an Audi (or even a Volvo),are in favour of goodness and against sin, you may not like it. I found it totally compelling and unlike some other reviewers, I couldn't put it down.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After enjoying the novel's of Irvin Welsh a friend
recommended I read the glasgow writer James
Kelman. I chose 'How Late It Was, How Late' to
begin with.
This novel by Mr Kelman is not a comfortable
read. But non the less a fine one. The character
of Sammy has hit a rough patch in his life ( to say
the very least). After his wife leaves and he has to
get by on the dole or in Glaswegian speak here 'the
brew' his troubles have only just begun.
Sammy is a determined, funny and relatable character.
Finding himself losing his sight one day. having been
locked up in a prison cell our Sammy adapts with admirable
spirit to his new dark life.
I didn't really notice or care about the many other characters
in this original novel. Sammy's adversity is one in which I found
myself cheering him on to the final page.
My friend's recommendation to read James Kelman led me to
thoroughly enjoy other books by him. In particular the short story
collection ,'Not Not While the Giro' and the very readable
'The Busconducter Hines'.
I recommend Mr James Kelman's work if you seek original, darkly
funny and very well written books.
Thank You
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