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 ...

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 ...

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle review – welcome to the great nowhere

Grief haunts an eerie puzzle box of a story in the second novel from the Mountain Goats frontman, set in the long-gone era of VHS tapes and dial-up
We live in an age when much of the fiction we consume is purpose built to not add up. In novels such as Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla sequence, TV shows such as The OA, Westworld and True Detective, and an increasing number of Hollywood film franchises, we encounter self-consciously labyrinthine and reflexive meta-narratives that end, when they can be said to end at all, in irresolution, deferral and ellipsis. JJ Abrams, the producer and co-creator of Lost who has helped to mainstream the idea of narrative as an endlessly open puzzle-box of allusions and intimations that simultaneously invites and resists exegesis, calls this style “the mystery box”. Part of the allure of such narratives is the participatory element: facilitated by social ...