- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (6 Mar. 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0433393971
- ISBN-13: 978-0433393979
- ASIN: 0749398833
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
How Late It Was How Late Paperback – 6 Mar 1995
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"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
"Beautiful, spirited thoughts hard up against the old brute truths...enormous artistic and social depth...James Kelman's best book yet" (Guardian)
"Forging a wholly distinctive style from the bruised cadences of demotic Glaswegian, Kelman renders the hidden depths of ordinary lives in sardonic, abrasive prose which is more revealing of feelings that could ever be expected...as uplifting a novel as one could ever hope to read" (Sunday Telegraph)
"A passionate, scintillating, brilliant song of a book" (Independent)
"Gritty, realistic and bleak, but the overall tone is strangely positive. The fast pace of the narrative, Kelman's dry humour and the indomitable spirit combine to provide a liberating read" (Big Issue)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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...Read more ›
The book is written as a continuous train of thought from the main character Sammy (the bold Sammy) who wakes up from a weekend long bender to find himself in a police cell worse for wear. What really makes this book interesting is the writing style which flows of the page. The language may be a problem for some as it is written in the Glasgow vernacular although the author avoids becoming too incomprehensible to anyone outside the central belt. All in a all a great read and possibly would be a regular on the top 100 lists if it was not for the use of Glaswegian slang in the writing which may put some off. If there is one criticism, and the reason for four rather than five stars, is that it does lag a little at times part way through the second half. Otherwise though add it too your Amazon basket today!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book will immerse and sweep you away in the curiously tragic world of 'Sammy' as he struggles with his new found afflictions whilst the world conspires against him. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Mattykg
It's okay, but, I found the ambiguity a bit tedious after a while. I know that the character of Sammy is meant to be cynical and apathetic towards his situation and life in... Read morePublished 21 months ago by J Spencer, author of 'Post-Grad'
Prime Scotch literature about a wayward, disaffected man struggling to survive through hardship- brought about by himself. Gritty and intense, it's not for the squeamish. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Ged
After enjoying the novel's of Irvin Welsh a friend
recommended I read the glasgow writer James
Kelman. Read more
I read this unusual book as part of a personal challenge to read all the Booker Prize winners, and Kelman won in 1994 with How Late it Was, How Late. Read morePublished on 20 Oct. 2014 by John Goddard
I found the book absolutely gripping and easy to pick up and put down. As I neared the end, I began to wonder how the author would tie up all the loose ends - there seemed to be so... Read morePublished on 22 Aug. 2014 by fiddlur
Reviewers from the Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent and a selective group of Booker Prize judges all fell over themselves in praise of this novel. Why? Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2013 by Mr. Dean Brand
I'm a big fan of Irvine Welsh - based on that I was advised to take a look at Kelman. I prefer Welsh, but this is a very good read.Published on 21 Mar. 2013 by Martin A. Owen