That Was a Shiver, and Other Stories by James Kelman review – a challenging collection

Haphazard, perplexingly oblique stories from the Booker prize-winning author of How Late it Was, How Late

In a UK literary landscape dominated by the bloodless southern prose of the Oxbridge-UEA axis of Standard English, the pungent, unapologetically polemical work of Scottish writer James Kelman cannot help but stand starkly out. Kelman’s signature register is a fuck-infested, mercurially punctuated, Glaswegian vernacular. His characters and settings come from the lowest, smashed rungs of working-class life. He has published fiction prolifically – nine novels, nine short-story collections, including this latest book – but while some of the writers he has influenced, most notably Irvine Welsh, have gone on to achieve popular acclaim with a similarly dialect-intensive aesthetic, Kelman’s work has failed to find even a modest general audience.

The critics have done their best. If Kelman is an obscurity, he is a venerated obscurity. He even won the Booker in 1994. Careers are ...