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Gray, Alasdair

fantasy novels stories glasgow

(British, 1934– )

Gray has lived and worked in Glasgow, his complementary careers as an artist and a writer producing flamboyant-looking books. Visual imagination and authorial playfulness characterize his work, expressed through his own illustrations, mock reviews and blurbs, and unorthodox typography. Gray's stories and novels deal with politics, fantasy, Scottish social history, and polemic, while being great fun to read. Start with Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1984), a handsome collection of stories, some fantastical and humorous, others panoramic; ‘Five Letters from an Eastern Empire’ is a wonderful evocation of imperial China, an allegory of power and its human consequences. Lanark: A Life in Four Books (1981) is Gray's largest novel, interweaving the grim boyhood of Duncan Thaw in post-war Glasgow with his afterlife as Lanark in the fantasy city of Unthank. The narratives are further complicated by an ‘index of diffuse and imbedded plagiarisms’, in which the author comments on his sources and borrowings from world literature, a device that Gray uses in other novels. 1982, Janine (1984) is a political satire, narrated by a security consultant drunkenly holed up in a hotel room. Both Poor Things (1992) and A History Maker (1994) are fantasy novels presented as discovered manuscripts, set respectively in the nineteenth and twenty-third centuries. Poor Things tells the Frankenstein-like tale of Godwin Baxter and his creation Bella, while the latter book, a kilted science fiction yarn, concerns border warfare and matriarchy versus militarism.

Flann O'Brien, James Kelman, Salmon Rushdie, Will Self  JS

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