I started writing Before in early October 1995, in Leith, Edinburgh, a few weeks before I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. I finished it in February 1996, and it was published by the short-lived but influential Incommunicado Press in the summer of 1997.
It was my transitional book. As I wrote it, I felt as though I was writing on the very edge of meaninglessness, of silence, of not writing at all. It was an attempt to discover meaning without plot or pattern, to be honest and not fudge anything, not hide behind literary tricks or devices. From page to page, I never knew where I was going to take it or where it was going to take me. I think it has a meaning that can't be explained in words, but is found between the words, between the lines, in the silences.
all the windows, all the cats,
all the people, through centuries —
and these two, now,
seeing each other from dry rooms
in an afternoon of warm rain
Although I mostly agree with Jeremy Corbyn's policies, I wrote him off as Labour Party leader. I said his belief he could win showed he was so deluded he ought to be involuntarily hospitalised under Section 23 of the Mental Health Act.
I was wrong, and I'm so happy to be wrong, I could dance a jig.
Scottish Labour leader (if such an irrelevant party can even be said to have a leader) Kezia Dugdale embarrasses herself and her party with a personal attack on Nicola Sturgeon. I'm sure Sturgeon is heartbroken that Dugdale wouldn't want to have a drink with her.
It's cute that Dugdale thinks her opinions matter. The Scottish Labour Party is the barely-walking dead.
For an antidote to such silliness, see this piece in The Guardian by Kevin McKenna.
In Thursday's general election, the only vote that makes any sense in Scotland is for the S.N.P. Scottish Labour killed itself by betraying the working class, the Tories are...well, the Tories...and, if you support the Green Party, its best chance of gaining traction is in an independent Scotland.
As I wrote in this essay, working class Scottish people of my generation grew up writing in English but speaking in Scots. That's probably still mostly true of younger people, but I notice that they have more of a tendency to write in Scots, at least in informal communications. I'm sure this is related to the strengthening of Scottish identity, and having our own parliament, in recent years. I wonder if the number of shops selling kilts in central Glasgow is also related.
I noticed a few weeks ago that, for the first time in decades, I'm thinking in Scots, not English. I don't know how long I had lived in the US before I began thinking, and speaking (though with a Glasgow accent, which never softened), in American English, but it's been my default language for most of the last two decades. Having been back in Glasgow for five months, I now have to consciously speak English if it's required. Otherwise, my speaking voice is the same as my thinking. My default written language is still English, as it always has been.
As I walked to the bus stop, I saw two drivers get out of their cars and come to blows. When I was on the bus, a young man tried to bring a bicycle on board with him. The driver told him that wasn't allowed.
"A'm gonnae huv yer bus blown up!" the cyclist said.
"Mind ye git ra right bus number," the driver said.
Sunshine, bus stop —
young woman with Down Syndrome
says her friends left her. She needs
to get home. Her friends left her. She
needs money for the bus.
Get my novels Before and How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? as part of this story bundle — 14 books for $15, available this month only.
Forget the fedora, but double the length of the dark alley. Noir fiction isn't necessarily what you think. In the public imagination, the idea of noir is dominated by the films of the 1940s and early 1950s—overcoats and cigarettes, femmes fatale with gams that just won't quit, and plenty of the cheapest gin. But noir fiction is something different: there are few hardboiled detectives, and the female characters aren't the sexpots Hollywood makes it profits from. In hardboiled crime fiction, the characters are all tough. In noir, they're all screwed.