Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Chancer - James Kelman

James Kellman's books aren't an easy read. Most of them around the working class life in Glasgow and around are gloomy in general and hardly with any optimism. His heroes while being part of the larger working class fraternity, are loners and and aloof. This is my third book of him and I was more prepared to this time with his style and the overall outlook.

Tammas, is a twenty something compulsive gambler in Glasgow. His world , after leaving his job, revolve around betting dens. From race courses, to Casinos, to Dog racing tracks and often with cards. Typical to the stories in such cases, he win occasionally and looses more often. Usually, with no money, he lives with his sister and brother-in-law, often being at the receiving end of their displeasure on his indecisiveness in life. Its the alcohol and the betting that drives him through out the day. His couple of attempts to get back to normal way of living, by joining the factory did not last long - less than a day in his last attempt. The closed environment of the factory set up suffocates him, making him leave that for good.

There is no real motive in his life and he has nothing to look forward to. The wandering from pub to pub, from one race tracks to Casino is what tick him along. His friends, are now taking serious steps in life, one leaving for Hull city to play in their Club, while another is migrating to New Zealand, yet another planning for his eventual move to Manchester, where he is expected to get jobs in the mills. All these do not affect Tammas, nor is he persuaded to join them. He is also passive to his girl friend Betty and avoids her. The 'Giro' that comes in the weekends are hardly enough and he is usually 'skint' by Tuesday. He then has to pawn his 'suits' or any other items from his sisters household to run the rest of the week, until the next Giro.

The book progresses through these lines, slightly getting repetitive and dull to some extend. This book is not plot driven nor it is a great story telling. It moves through the life of Tammas at uneven pace. It is only in the end pages, that Tammas likes to take his chance with life, after he falls in love with a lady whose husband is in prison.

This book will bore most of the readers, unless you are familiar with James Kelman's style. There are no events unfolding which are significant. There are no dramatic moments. The writing is different and the page is full of swear words. The language is with Scottish dialect ( I am used to this after reading Kelman and AL Kennedy) .You often get a feeling that the writer has abandoned you with his protagonist and you both are left to find your own way. Once you are used to this, you find the reading much more relaxing. Having said that, I preferred his short stories to his novels , from what I have read.
A Chancer ( 1985)

James Kelman


308 Pages
Read: Here is a profound essay on James Kelman, and particularly on A Chancer.

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