The last time I was in Scotland was more than 10 years ago, struggling my way against the crowds up Market St. in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve while the Bay City Rollers played “Saturday Night.” This time I’m off to Glasgow and Remote Parts West.
In honor of my trip, I’ve been watching Scottish television, and now present a list of Scottish reading:
- Denise Mina – Garenthill & Exile. Excellent, brutal, mysteries set in shitty parts of Edinbrugh with protagonist probably more messed-up than the actual killer. Mina has written other books but, frankly, I’ve been too scared to read them.
- Lanark, by Alasdair Gray. Yeah, I read it, but maybe I’m not Scottish enough; I liked the idea of it much more than the experience. Others feel differently.
- Ian Rankin. #1 author of Tartan Noir. I haven’t actually read any, to my shame. I can’t believe that the 1st Inspector Rebus novel, Knots & Crosses, is out-of-print in the US. What is that about?
- Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott. There really is a Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh, set into the pavement along the Royal Mile. Everytime I walked by, it was covered by gobs of spit.
- Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh. Yeah, I know. But the first time I saw the movie, I was blown away, and went out looking for the book on the trip home from the theater. Say what you will about Welsh, I think (if my memory is accurate) that this one book was pretty amazing. Maybe it was a fluke, but I’d be happy to write a fluke like that.
- Muriel Spark: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver’s Seat. I admire Spark tremendously. Half the time I’m not sure what’s going on, which is probably why I admire her; I know she’s smarter than me. Her novels have a sly, manicured composure that seems out of fashion these days, and I’ll admit, there’s something retro about my enjoyment of her work–it’s cool and encapsulated and ever so slightly untouchable, like running my fingers over an immaculate 1962 issue of Woman’s Weekly, shrinkwrapped since publication and preserved from the ravages of time, hip-hop, chav girls, and spider poo.