Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not Not While the Giro - James Kelman

Considered as one of the leading exponent of Working class literature, James Kelman's first collection of short stories, published in 1983 was a huge success. Stories about these working class people, who live an abandoned life in rented cottages and the dreaded factories. The work in the day time at stupid conditioned, the evening usually spent in the pub over a pint, some gambling. The concerns of every one is the same. The hand to mouth kind of living, no luxury whatsoever. Most of them live out of the weekly unemployment money they receive or the meagre wages, spending the money in first couple of days on 'pint' , on gambling ( dog races, horses, on cards, on pool table) often defaulting on the rents, living last few days starving.

Most of them are alone, living in small cottages, along with co workers , isolated from the near and dear. Few occasions of being near to the fairer sex, they are often confused and does not know how to proceed ( Stories like 'Ten  guitar, the hitch hiker and Jim Dandy').

This collection has some fantastic stories. Not Not while the Giro the story carries the name of the collection, is the best for me. Over the perennial wait for the Giro ( the unemployment benefit), the lavish living over the weekend, the struggle for the last 4 days, before the next payout. But he never stopped to dream of his life out of this. He is not happy with the free money, he has his on dreams and plans

    Seriously, I am fed up with being fed up. What do I wish

             I shall not entertain day dreams
             I shall not fantasise
             I shall endeavor to make things work
The situation is so bad, that there is a scene, where he suck his own thumb, hoping for some traces of nicotine taste.

Acid, a one paragraph, half a page story talks about an accident in a chemical factory, where a young worker falls into a tank of acid, screaming for help before he succumb to death. There is nothing can be done to save him, when an old man comes over using a mopping stick to push the still floating head the remaining down to the acid, who happens to be the father of the dead.

In the house of old women, we see three young men in a newly rented house, fighting over small comforts and see the deterioration of the friendship. Jim Dandy, contrary to his image seems to be struggling with himself when the opportunity arise. Nice to be nice is one story took ages for me to complete. Written completely in the local dialect, had be reading it for four hours. 'Ten Guitars', 'The hitchhiker' and 'Double or clear plus a tenner' are other important stories.

There is an undercurrent of anger, by the writer while the up front is detached. The society, in general and the authorities in particular aren't in sympathy with them. Though they do not rebel against the system, they do so in the ways and means they are familiar with.

James Kelman uses the swear language liberally in his writing. I was amazed at my first reading of this writer ( A Disaffection) on the number of four letter words per page. I heard form othere too that the initial reaction for them wasn't any different. But as you get used to his style and his writing background, you starts appreciating this writer. In this collection too, the people are the working class, and they have the right to speak the language and Kelman uses it to its best effects.

Acclaimed collection of short stories, one of the first to be published by Kelman, who later went on to win the Booker in 1994.

Not Not While the Giro ( 1983 )

James Kelman


207 Pages


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