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Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canons) by [Gray, Alasdair]
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Lanark: A Life in Four Books (Canons) Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product Description


"I was absolutely knocked out by Lanark. I think it's the best in Scottish literature this century" (Iain Banks)

"Probably the greatest novel of the century . . . it marked the beginning of a new era" (James Campbell Observer)

"It was time Scotland produced a shattering work of fiction in the modern idiom. This is it . . . [Gray is] the best Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott" (Anthony Burgess)

"When dawn comes up and retires in dismay, we find ourselves in the presence of an overpowering surreal imagination. A saga of a city where reality is about as reliable as a Salvador Dali watch" (Brian Aldiss)

"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)

"From a lesser writer, stygian darkness and baroque structure might see off a mass audience and reduce a book to cult status. In Gray's hands, the simple, direct prose found him a wide readership." (The Times)

"A phantasmagorical mixture of realism and fantasy" (The List)

"In some ways it's even more relevant today. It's such an elaborate work of both fantasy and political satire, a sort of Gulliver's Travels for 20th Century Scotland" (Scotland on Sunday)

Book Description

'The best Scottish novelist since Sir Walter Scott' ANTHONY BURGESS

This cornerstone epic is now available as a beautiful canon with an introduction by William Boyd

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1662 KB
  • Print Length: 596 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (31 May 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002VM7FWQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #38,368 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
To review this book properly, I have to make two things totally clear first of all. One, this is probably my favourite book of all time; I've read it four times, studied it extensively at school and university, and written two dissertations on it. Secondly, it's a difficult book. it's opaque, occasionally frustrating, diverse to the point of fragmentation, and bloody massive.

The difficult elements of Lanark are tied in inextricable with the manner of conception. Gray began writing the novel in 1954, and finished it in 1976. Over the course of these twenty two years, the book went through a tremendous amount of redrafting, editing, scrapping and resurrecting. The negative side to this extraordinarily long genesis is that the book does at times seem overly divergent in prose style, and can even feel disjointed. The plus side is, of course, that the final result is an allegorical novel covering over twenty years of ideas, events, arguments and revelations from Gray's life, Scotland and the world in general.

The plot of the novel is half fantastical, half semi-autobiographical. The novel is split into four books, with 1& 2 mapping the life of Duncan Thaw, a Glasgow man based on Gray himself; Book 3&4 focus on Lanark, an amnesiac lost in the bizarre city of Unthank.

Gray makes use of many experimental techniques in the novel, including his own illustrations and creative typesetting, extensive use of pastiche, self-referential jokes, fake scholarly footnotes, references to imaginary chapters and various other devices. Take note; if extensive experimentation with text, language and the elements of construction of fiction do not appeal to you, you will probably find large sections of this book not to your taste, if not unreadable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How this passed me by in the 80s I do not know, but I'm glad I got there eventually via my son. (Parents of young adults out there, isn't it wonderful when that happens?!) It is not like anything I've ever read, though there are echoes of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Mervyn Peake and Kafka, if that's not pushing it too far.
Just buy it and read it. It's awesome. (I use the word in its correct sense.)
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Format: Paperback
Having been an 'avid' reader since I first picked up a "William" book over fifty years ago, I must have read countless hundreds of novels over that time, 'Classic' or otherwise. "Lanark" sits easily in my top ten favourite novels ever. It is now rightly regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of all time, and contributes mightily to English Literature in general. Each and every time that I have recommended this novel to a 'reading' friend, they have thereafter warmly cherished this book and continue to hold it in the highest affection. But, so much for my meagre recommendations.
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.
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you often pick it up in book shops, you hear folk saying what a difficult book it is, you put it back down. you know you'll repeat the exercise frequently, and you'll wish you had the will and intellect to read, understand and enjoy this book, which people have made you frightened of. then, after years of this behaviour, you will buy it twice in two days.
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!
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