Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canongate Classics) Paperback – 31 May 2007
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"A quite extraordinary achievement, the most remarkable thing in Scottish fiction for a very long time. It has changed the landscape." (Allan Massie The Scotsman)
"Undoubtedly the best work of fiction written by a Scottish author for decades." (Time Out)
"Remarkable. . . Lanark is a work of loving and vivid imagination, yielding copious riches." (William Boyd Times Literary Supplement)
"I was absolutely knocked out by Lanark. I think it's the best in Scottish literature this century." (Iain Banks)
With a new introduction by William BoydSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
Just buy it and read it. It's awesome. (I use the word in its correct sense.)
I really feel like I have lived in other worlds after reading Lanark, I am sure I will read it again as well it is so quality.
It is a combination of a real-life type story about a boy/young man growing up - which is a real page turner, utterly gripping and convincing - and a fantasy of what the future might be like. The two are sort of connected but not so you'd really notice.
Like some other readers, I liked the boy/young man growing up part the best. It is brilliantly written in a very skilled and concise way, it sticks in your mind and is completely believable (apparently it is basically drawn from the author's life). However, I also enjoyed the fantasy parts even though I do not normally read that type of book - it was a foray into the unknown which appealed to my imagination in many ways.
There are a few bits that I felt a bit frustrated with (in the fantasy parts) because I could not quite see the point of them, but I kept going through these even if I did skim read a tiny bit....
I had the kindle edition which means you do not get the benefit of the amazing pictures drawn by the author. Also you might think it has got something wrong with it because it starts with 'Book 3' but it is supposed to be like that.
which i did, the first copy as a christmas present for my son, the 2nd, the day after, for £2 in a charity shop, when i decided that i couldn't wait for him to get through it so i could scadge a loan of it. well, i wasn't going to let him read it first! unthank goodness i did! this is truly one of the great scottish novels, years in the writing, greatly considered, utterly compelling, and has the quality attached to it that makes you read slower toward the end, because you don't want it to. a mesmerising, towering achievement of a book. unthanks mr. gray!
the tale is a simple one and a complex one, and an emotional one as it details the life of lanark/duncan thaw through his failures (many) and triumphs (few, but inspiring). these take place in two distinctive settings and times, creating some of the most skillfully written science fiction in the process. the 'glasgow' books are written with great care and obvious love, with a nod to james kelman in their creation. i can't think of greater praise. i'm not going to wrestle with the guts of the story, the why's, the how's, the where's, etc., as it's covered more than ably by other reviewers, and in the actual book, of course. it's important, however, to say that you don't have to be scottish to read and enjoy it, just read and enjoy it!
To properly 'review' "Lanark" would take me the rest of the day, and at least twenty-five pages of exegesis.
Just in passing then, I have heard this opus described as 'dense', 'opaque and 'difficult'- it isn't! You only have to read the opening paragraph to see that the prose is straightforward, if not downright dead-pan. Sentence structure is generally simple, and even honed-down, as the author seeks to convey his meaning as directly as possible. Having said that, "Lanark" is a vivid and luminous work, and is at times gut-wrenching and immensely sad. Indeed, Sadness seems to be at the absolute core of this book, and to inhabit every page.
We also note in passing the title of this novel: "Lanark - A Life in 4 Books". The novel deals with the Life of One Single Person only (with, of course, the concomintant cast of characters). Lanark and Thaw are the same person in other words, as so much seems obvious. We have the 'literal' life of Thaw (quite clearly semi-autobiographical with regard to its author, and quite apart from its merit as Art, very informative about Gray's development as an artist), and we have the 'imaginary' life of Lanark, who is still steadfastly Thaw, but in some other surrealistic parallel dimension.
Gray's organisation of his material in "Lanark" is sublime/apt/meticulous, such that we are never in doubt about 'where we are' in the story, and we are not left metaphorically wandering about and lost.
Lanark is of course wandering about and lost, much like the rest of us. Lanark is just an ordinary person, a central theme of the novel. And as for the novel's main theme, that is surely Love.
Love found, love lost, unrequited love .... this theme is best summed up by a quote: "I ought to have more love before I die. I've not had enough."
I first read this novel in October 1982, and my Granada paperback edition has literally fallen to pieces.
Luckily, I also possess a signed and limited-edition of "Lanark" in solemn hardback. A true and forever treasure, until I sadly have to die, like everyone else.
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