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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars


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on 4 September 2001
'Lanark' clearly has some moments of greatness (namely the 'Epilogue'), but I couldn't help but have a niggling feeling that there was something I just wasn't getting. I'm sure it probably is a great book, I just don't think I took the time to get it. Why am I writing a review then? Well, everyone else seems to love it so I thought I'd show some difference of opinion. Duncan Thaw is good, but no Prentice McHoan!
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on 7 November 2013
I've just finished lanark and found it very hard work. I kept going through all five hundred and sixty pages of it, but for the last couple of hundred it felt like coming to the end of a marathon: I didn't want to give up but couldn't wait for it to end. I kept going though because it is a well written and I don't like to quit something that feels to be of quality.
I found the two 'realistic' books (in inverted commas because it didn't always feel like such a realistic representation of young people) much more accessible than the two surreal sections. The significance of any of the events in the surreal sections was frankly lost on me. I've heard that there are various references to events in Scottish politics in there, which I know nothing about, so maybe my ignorance of this contributed to my lack of comprehension of these parts, but I don't know. The various things that happen to Lanark such as his skin turning into 'dragonhide', him plunging down a chute into a strange place where he becomes a doctor, then escaping to wander around a zone where the time and space are all warped (sorry if these are plot spoilers), just felt very frustrating to read as I couldn't see what any of it was supposed to mean.
I finished this book feeling that there was something that I just hadn't got about it. It is so well regarded by people I respect such as Iain Banks, Anthony Burgess and suchlike that I felt sorry I was too dumb to recognise its alleged brilliance. Either that or nobody knows what the f*** its about and we have a case of the emporer's new clothes.
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on 2 April 1999
Astonishing debut novel from Scottish author Alasdair Gray. Its twin narratives follow Duncan Thaw, an angst-ridden asthmatic Glaswegian art student, and the same character, reborn as 'Lanark', in a decaying Glasgow-like city that is Thaw's personal Hell. Witty, satirical, packed with literary allusions and sly plagiarisms, this has been called the definitive modern Scottish novel. It's certainly my all-time favourite novel.
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on 22 April 2000
Quite simple really - my favourite book of all time. Nothing pretentious about my praise: a stunning, complex, irritatingly-difficult and brilliant book. I first read it in October 1982 and have worn out my copy by over ten readings. But enough of reading my rubbish - read it!
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on 28 June 2008
I have read Gray before and he is obviously a man of intelligence and talent BUT, all the way through Lanark i had the feeling that the book is not as good as he thinks it is. At it's worst the prose are over descriptive and self indulgent, particularly in book one and the start of book four. Book two stands alone as an excellent piece of literature in itself, while book four eventually builds itself up to a high standard peaking with the epilogue, before going slowly downhill and finishing with a whimper. Lanark as a character seemed to be built up as a strong willed, determined man with principles. He finished up being somewhat of a cretin. This is explained to some extent in the epilogue [one man against the machine being ineffectual], but it still makes the end of the book comparatively uneventful and disappointing. A mixed book that I'm glad I read but wouldn't return to in a hurry.
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on 17 June 2000
A book that is an exemplar of anti-realist fiction - more importantly, it overturns all what you would expect a conventional novel to be. It changed the way that I viewed fiction and was a revelatory experience. By reading Lanark, I totally reviewed the way that I read novels and it lead me into a completely new and exciting pathways. If you only ever read one book, read this one - especially the epilogue!
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on 15 November 1999
This incredible book tells the story of Duncan Thaw (lanark after his first death) and his struggle in his life and indeed his death to be loved. This book will both amuse you and at the same time question some of the facts we all take for granted. The book opens after Thaws death, where we are introduced to him under the name of lanark as he struggles to come to terms with life in his own personal version of hell - a disintegrating and slum like Glasgow. Escape does come, but with its own price and Lanark find that life in the institute is not for hin either. At this stage the plot switches to the life of Thaw and his own downward spiral towards death, before returning to conclude Lanark's tale (I won't say more for fear of ruining the plot). I think one of the most enjoyable parts for me was the appearance of Gray himself - justifying his plot and its development to the readers as well as to his central character. Its surreal, its witty and it is the best thing I have read for years. A truly great novel!
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on 17 May 2015
Great novel (technically 4 novels?!) particularly for anyone who knows Scotland. Would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys books of any genre, but particularly sci-fi, fantasy, futurism etc. This edition is well bound, good quality.
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on 13 August 2001
Lanark is, in so many ways, a straight forward tale of two people-who may or may not be one and the same- struggling through their difficult lives. Gray, however, has taken these two tales and twisted them mesmerically together and in doing so has undoubtedly produced one of the most original and exciting novels ever. Lanark, under the pen of any other author, would be two fairly regular stories, but Gray's wit and skill has turned it into something breath-taking. His epilogue in particular showcases his intelligence and arrogance as a writer. A real must-read.
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on 10 December 2012
I haven't been able to stop thinking about LARNARK since I read it. It's a book that threatens to be off-putting, not least because it ventures into areas that many readers will find inconclusive and irrelevant. William Boyd virtually admits as much in his less-than-helpful Introduction in which he grants (fair dues for honesty) that he finds the fabular Parts of the novel less satisfying than the 'realistic' ones. In other words, Lanark's adventures in Unthank resist William Boyd's ability to knit them into the 'realistic' story of Duncan Thaw.

Other readers and reviewers have interpreted the Unthank sections as Thaw's continued existence in Purgatory, or as Gray himself called Unthank, a world of 'lovelessness'. There is some validity to this.

I was jolted into a further, complimentary interpretation as I was reading Alfred Appel's Introduction to THE ANNOTED 'LOLITA': 'The contiguous world is the mind and spirit of the author [in this case, Nabokov], whose identity, psychic survival, and 'manifold awareness' are ultimately both the subject and the product of the book. In whatever way they are openend, the 'windows' always reveal that 'the poet ... is the nucleus' of everything.' Like some other novels (LOLITA, ULYSSES, IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME), LANARK is an involuted novel. It employs many of the tropes of involuted novels - authorial voice, parody, coincidence, patterning, the staging of the novel, allusion and 'the work-within-the-work' - to achieve its manifold effects. The reference to 'windows' in the quotation above couldn't but help to remind me of Lanark's confusing glimpses of shifting exterior views from the windows of the hospital in which he finds himself after being ingested. And what this all suggests to me is that the Unthank sections is Duncan Thaw's confrontation as Lanark with the mind of the author - in essence, with his Creator (who is Alasdair Gray). This folds the 'Purgatory' interpretation into itself and adds something new and vital.

I find myself returning again and again to the late section in which Lanark confronts The Author, and re-reading the funny but deeply moving historical summary of similar stories that The Author throws out at Lanark to justify his creation. It all seems to suggest that the 'realistic' sections of the novel simply aren't enough to justify themselves as literature and that Gray recognises that stories clothing themselves in 'realism' simply aren't enough to encompass Life. Hence the absolute necessity and validity of the Unthank sections where Duncan's existence as a character is brought to rounded fruition.
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