Friday 17th April 2020
Q1) The book most influential for you as a young person
Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I read it first when I was about 14 or 15. My Uncle Alan had a copy of it and It caught my eye, the illustrations initially. Looking at them I noticed lots of places familiar to me, the Necropolis, Wills fag factory, etc. At the time I knew I wanted to somehow be creative/artistic and ‘do something’. Reading Lanark made me realise that great art and a ‘big book’ can be made by someone who grew up in the same end of Glasgow as me, and the main character in the novel lived in the next street to my pal in Riddrie. It really brought it home to me that art can be your own everyday life. I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or how to do it, but discovering Alasdair Gray was a turning point. Through Alasdair Gray’s work I then discovered James Kelman. 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.
Q2) The book that gets you through hard times
None really. I read recently on one of these same q & a pages on here someone saying they equate reading with being sort of happy. Sometimes when I’m fucked off with things it’s like I don’t even realise until I go hmm, I’ve hardly read my book for a week, not done any drawing or writing, I’ve actually done fuck all productive for two months. Then it’s like c’mon GET A GRIP.
Q3) The book that most disappointed you
Lord Of The Flies. It’s one of them you hear about loads. I never got round to reading it until about ten years ago. And I just thought it was a bit… daft.
Q4) Name a book with either a brilliant opening or a brilliant ending
That Was A Shiver by James Kelman. The last story in the collection is one of the best short stories I have ever read. It follows the mind and internal thoughts of a guy wandering around the Barras market in Glasgow. The way it builds up and the way the rhythm and even the density of the type on the page changes as he gets himself more and more wound up is done so perfectly you don’t even realise it. And then the abrupt ending, brilliant. The first time I read it I was in the bath, I finished it, put it down and thought about it for a while then picked it up and read the story again. James Kelman I find to be an expert in putting into writing characters that ring true in terms of you can often think ‘I’ve met that person’, or sometimes ‘I’ve been that person’.
Q5) Your favourite character from a novel
Off the top of my head, Billy Fisher from Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. It’s a right page turner and entertaining, funny and sad. A person striving to escape everyday reality and pursuing his impossible dream of becoming a comedy writer to escape the job he hates. At the same time he is a twat to himself and doesn’t do himself any favours. There was a follow up too, Billy Liar On The Moon.
Q6) Next on your ‘to read’ pile is…
I don’t know, there’s always a queue. But I think from what I’ve read on this site recently I’m going to get a hold of For The good times by David Keenan. It’s good discovering new stuff.
Q7) Your favourite poem
I can’t really say a favourite poem, but my favourite poets would be Tony Harrison from Leeds, John Cooper Clarke from Salford, Edwin Morgan from Glasgow. Morgan’s Glasgow Sonnets series is a favourite. Tony Harrison’s series of sonnets The School of Eloquence is another favourite too, really great some of it. A lot of it reflects on his own early life, and some very moving ones on his father’s later life. His short introductory verse to the series has always stuck with me, here it is:
How you became a poet’s a mystery!
Wherever did you get your talent from?
I say: I had two uncles, Joe and Harry -
One was a stammerer, the other dumb.
Q8) The greatest book you’ve ever read
Ulysses by James Joyce. Everything about it, the way it’s put together, the story behind its creation and publication. The amount of work that went into writing it and its sheer level of beautifully written detail. I love all his stuff, such a great writer. Again, someone using everyday life to make extraordinary works of art. ●
Stuart Murray is an artist from Glasgow. His work has been exhibited in such exotic places as Ullapool and Bucharest. He has about 8 publications to his name so far, including Glaswegians published by Hogsback Press; Gateway To Work published by GSA; In Pubs published by Street Level. He regularly publishes artwork on his blog site The Folk Ye Bump Intae describing it as a continual work in progress with no end in sight.