An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Book Review - The Busconductor Hines by James Kelman

James Kelman is the only Brit shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2009. His novel A Disaffection which I reviewed here previously was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 1989. His novel How late it was, how late won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994. With the possible exception of J G Ballard he is probably the finest Brit writer of English active today.

There are no heroes in Kelman. There are no massive plot arcs, no tricksy twists, no gratuitous redemptions. Kelman specialises in real life - and brilliant clear prose. His ear is acute for ordinary Scottish Glasgow dialect and he records it in such a way that it rings from the page. His eye for the telling trivial vignette is piercing and he puts these snatches of dialogue and fragments of life together in such a skilled way that you slow down your reading pace to savour them. I am always sad to finish a Kelman work be it a short story or a a novel - The Bus Conductor Hines is no exception.

Rab Hines is a bus conductor. He is not a great bus conductor - his record is poor. He hates the job.Rab Hines is a husband and father. He is neither a great husband nor a wonderful father. Rab is just like you and me - pretty ordinary. Rab gets by. He does his best. He makes the most of what he has - even the no-bedroomed tenement flat under threat of imminent demolition that he and his family inhabit uncomfortably.

Quite simply put James Kelman does what few novelists these days can do - he describes the ordinary and makes it true. He chooses and uses his language to convince you of the humanity in all of us. Long may he continue so to do.

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