#FictionFriday


THIS WEEK: (23rd) The novelist Lesley McDowell
NEXT WEEK: (30th) The writer Caroline Collett






The novelist
Lesley McDowell



LMcD: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I have a feeling I’m too late to it now, in the way that you have to read a book at a certain point in your life. ... click here to read more








The Common Breath's
Kirsten Anderson



KA: This novel will hook you in from the very first line. However individual lines could exist as poetry, as could chunks of each page. I found it hypnotic at times ... click here to read more








The writer
Andrew Leach



AL: A book to make you cry, to marvel, to know the characters as if they're sitting beside you, to learn an alien landscape as if it's your backyard ... click here to read more








Writer & musician
Clare Archibald



CA: It was the first book I’d read that was both Scottish but formally different in a dryly funny and dark off kilter way that felt true and interesting to me ... click here to read more








The writer
Drew Gummerson



DG: The novel is narrated by a working class Japanese woman living in Tokyo whose sister, an aging hostess, comes to visit. The sister is obsessed with the idea that boob augmentation will change her life. I’m expecting that it won’t ... click here to read more








The writer
Martin Geraghty



MG: The book hasn’t left my bedside table since I bought it. It’s the perfect book for dipping in and out of. He’s a genius, a Rock n Roll writer who writes like he’s in the Bardo state ... click here to read more








The writer
Sarah Smith



SS: His popular image makes it easy to dismiss him as a Victorian sentimentalist, but I love his social satire and characterisation. His psychological portraits are ahead of their time ... click here to read more








The writer
Donna McLean



DMcL: I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much or became so immersed in memories! I had the urge to phone all my old pals from Ayrshire after reading it ... click here to read more








Writer & academic
Craig Lamont



CL: There was just enough light to see the pages, and this made it all the more special. I leaned in when I read this part, certain that something magic was about to happen ... click here to read more








The writer
Ruskin Smith



RS: If I’m having a particularly hard time it’s impossible to read. I just can’t absorb what’s on the page, or concentrate. What helps me then is moving and singing along to music ... click here to read more








Writer & musician
Stu Hennigan



SH: He has such a great voice – I love the sparsity of the prose and the dead-eyed nihilism of it all. As I’ve got older I’ve come to like that style more and more – I’m not a fan of purple prose ... click here to read more








Writer & researcher
Chiara Bullen



CB: The narrative is wonderfully chaotic and I love that – this book is also one that made me realise you’re never too old to pursue something new ... click here to read more








Reader & blogger
Grant Rintoul



GR: Disappointment comes in two main forms for me. Firstly, there are those books which are greeted with critical acclaim which, when you read them, leave you rather puzzled at the praise they have received ... click here to read more








Book-blogger
Hai Di Nguyen



HDN: One may struggle with some of his ideas, but there is no doubt that he is among the greatest novelists of all time because of the scope and depth of his works, because of his psychological insights ... click here to read more








The novelist
Ever Dundas



ED: I usually struggle to get through winter (the constant darkness gets to me – I love the long days of a Scottish summer) and I always reach to comics for comfort (though, I love horror, so they’re probably not other people’s idea of comfort) ... click here to read more








Book-seller
Millie McCosh



MM: I don’t re-read books. There are so many to discover, always a huge TBR pile and not enough time in life set aside for reading. Being a bookseller massively indulges this habit and I move on very quickly ... click here to read more








Matt from
Working-Class Literature



M: In his biography of Johnson, Jonathan Coe talks about how Johnson saw the “general shittiness of the world” as just one more burdensome problem he had to cope with and if that’s not relatable content for hard times I don’t know what is ... click here to read more








Short-story writer
Mike Fox



MF: It’s a book that only a poet could write, but also one that could only be written by a great relisher of life and of humanity, with all its contradictions and foibles ... click here to read more








'Young Team' writer
Graeme Armstrong!



GA: There’s definitely some funny lines (‘All morons hate it when you call them a moron’ - rings true) but on the whole Holden doesn’t really resonate. His often glib commentary reminds me of a modern cynical counter-ideology that exists mostly in the millennial meme-world ... click here to read more








Book-blogger
Kenny Pieper



KP: When I first read the books, in my early twenties , I realise now that I foolishly, pretentiously and wholly incorrectly felt that the world had dealt me a dodgy hand, fought against my injustice and saw a kindred spirit ... click here to read more








Caitrin Armstrong
of the S.B.T.



CA: Anyone who thinks that writing picture books is somehow easier than writing for adults should be made to read a terrible picture book over and over again. A bad picture book is a special kind of hell ... click here to read more








Memorial Device



MD: A book we read and re-read. And it just keeps on giving. Its meaning and resonance change as we do. The more we experience and understand, the more we appreciate it ... click here to read more








The actor
Tam Dean Burn



TDB: The world that Irvine has created, based above all in our shared birthplace of Leith and teeming with fantastic characters that he's returned to again and again is right up there with Dickens or whoever ... click here to read more








Writer & editor
Joseph Ridgwell



JR: The bit where he gets lost in the woods of Utah is classic. It’s very honest writing, which we don’t see too much of these days. Most writers today write badly written fairy tales that are meaningless ... click here to read more








The writer Neil Campbell



NC: Sometimes with the old guys you have to forget all the bullshit that surrounds them and actually read their writing. A great book like that is an act of fucking heroism ... click here to read more








Short-story writer
Ian Farnes



IF: Often it’s the choice of music we fall in love with that bridges the gap between being a child and being an adult and it can shape the way we interact with the world for the rest of our lives ... click here to read more








The artist Stuart Murray



SM: His work was a real shaft of light. Realising that a short story can be five pages of nothing happening, but everything happens. A couple of sentences on their own can constitute a short story, a piece of art ... click here to read more








Artist & designer
Mark Mechan



MM: I know it's a popular choice amongst Scots but with good reason. Its full of beautiful agony. Its tines are so well embedded in the soil that it connected with me in a way that no other book has ... click here to read more








Musician & writer
Kris O'Rourke



KO: Surely the greatest living American author. She does not let a page go by without crafting language that leaves you breathless, or mining a nugget of devastating insight ... click here to read more








The writer James Connarty



JC: I tend to pick it up if I’m in bed with the cold or battling a bout of insomnia. I have a really old battered copy from the 70s that my uncle gave me once when I was visiting him on a family holiday and had exhausted the reading material I’d brought with me ... click here to read more








The writer Ely Percy



EP: Despite having previously enjoyed the Edinburgh vernacular in Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’, it was not until I read ‘How Late’ that it dawned on me that I was also allowed to have a go at writing in Scots. That’s when I discovered I had a good ear for dialogue ... click here to read more








Michael Curran
of Tangerine Press



MC: There are of course many books that people tell me I ‘should’ read. When I shake my head, they look horrified ... click here to read more








The artist Lucy Sweet



LS: To The Lighthouse - if you're looking for a beautifully judged description of a coastal path, an overgrown garden or the inner life of a woman, Virginia Woolf is your gal ... click here to read more








The illustrator
Steven Learmonth



SL: The main theme of the novel is the difficulty of fitting into regular society, how some people long for that kind of acceptance and conformity, and how others may never achieve it ... click here to read more








The writer Lynsey May



LM: I have never hated anything so much. I hate-read it to the end. I was more persistent then. ... click here to read more








Professor Gerard Carruthers



GC: The seemingly apocryphal story, although I’ve been told not, is that when the Luftwaffe bombed my hometown of Clydebank during the Blitz this was the only book damaged in the town’s central library (I want to believe) ... click here to read more








The writer & NWS editor
Rachelle Atalla



RA: I expected to love it with its Kafkaesque elements but the protagonist is so jaded it reads to me like the thin mask of Coetzee in essay form ... click here to read more








Rachael Fulton of Netflix



RF: Like most little-girl bookworms, I felt an affinity with Matilda, (though I lacked her skills in maths and telekinesis) but my favourite was probably Danny The Champion of The World. The gypsy caravan and paraffin lamps are vividly imprinted in my mind’s eye, more like a memory than something from my imagination ... click here to read more








The poet Ciara MacLaverty



CM: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte left a big impression on me as a teenager. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is haunting and spellbinding, as beautiful as it is scary. It's the novel of our Climate Emergency times ... click here to read more








Publishing Scotland's
Vikki Reilly



VR: ...Heller knows exactly what he’s doing in representing the random, chaotic, ugly, illogical world his characters find themselves in. I love its structure, the call backs, its anger, its moments of victory, every single one of the characters – even when they’re being utter arseholes. Oh, I’m due a re-read! ... click here to read more








Scots Whay Hae's
Alistair Braidwood



AB: I read it in one sitting on a flight to Australia in the late ‘90s and the sights, sounds, textures and flavours were almost overwhelming. I think the woman sitting beside me worried for my health as I was moved to tears on many occasions. They do say you feel more keenly at altitude so there may have been a bit of that ... click here to read more








Journalist & editor
Catherine Taylor



CT: It's a work of metafiction, and a story within a story, a form of the pseudonymous autobiography at which Nabokov excels, as well as being a novel of exile, a meditation on the loss of parents, and wild with literary ambition and hope. It's stuffed with beauty and poetry and wit, and the rather liberating idea that we are all just moveable characters on the stage of life ... click here to read more








The writer Lynnda Wardle



LW: Books about finding long-lost family on a leper colony in Crete, designer baby hospitals for rich women on fancy ocean liners with a searingly handsome gynaecologists, Books with pastel covers, aggressive marketed as 'women's fiction' or the 'Holiday Read'. You get the picture ... click here to read more








Allan Cameron
of Vagabond Voices



AC: She is part of an unusual story of an unjust world, which doesn't work out well. Sought-after marriages are unhappy, and perhaps the unhappiness teaches the victims something ... click here to read more








Samina Chaudhry
(of Ten Writers Telling Lies)



SC: This style comes from a certain segment of Nigerian society linked to the socio-economic and educational background of the speakers. Heartfelt and timeless, the destruction of war is reflected poignantly ... click here to read more








Pat Byrne
(of Ten Writers Telling Lies)



PB: I love everything about this story. The vivid imagery, fantastic dialogue and the richness of the emo-tions felt by the characters. The revelation of a disturbing memory ... click here to read more








Litstack's Lauren Alwan



LA: I was angered and disappointed by Terrorist by John Updike, a book the author confessed having researched by reading 'Islam for Dummies', which tells you all you need to know. The novel employs some of the worst and most ignorant stereotypes imaginable ... click here to read more








The novelist Dr Rodge Glass



RG: It’s about the power of language and corruption of language. There are two poets, ripped from their families as children, imprisoned by a regime that tasks them with waiting a lifetime to write a single poem ... click here to read more








Professor Simon Kövesi



SK: .. What a bag of self-inflationary hot air that book is. Like walking into a gentleman’s club in the 1910s and being shouted at for being in the wrong building. Just odious ... click here to read more








The novelist David Keenan



TCB: The book that most disappointed you?
DK: I Fought The Law: The Life And Strange Death of Bobby Fuller by Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller ... click here to read more








The Common Breath editor
Brian Hamill



BH: The beginning strikes me as much more significant. Everything rides on whether you’re going to engage with this writer’s world, or not. I suppose an answer for this depends on what you think of when you think of a brilliant opening to a novel – first line? First paragraph? Page? Chapter? ... click here to read more