I loved this more than I can say, it is massive and labyrinthine and fantastic and grimly inventive, it is pure Glasgow plus so much more. It is cities and class politics and energy and the connections between physical and mental illness and art and obsession and stubbornness. And a dragon.
I confess that while reading I hate to find myself suddenly muttering to myself ‘you stupid cow,‘ and if the book is written by a man I hold it against him, but that couldn’t stop me here. I generally hate it when books escape into authorial ramblings and discussions of fate and power, yet that didn’t phase me either. Perhaps he had me when Sludden says ‘Tell me why you use the balcony,’ and Lanark answers:
‘I’m looking for sunlight.’
Perhaps that is all this book really is about.
I felt that way in my time in Glasgow, I loved it so much but always with that corner of yearning for the sun.
I don’t even know how I decided the following things were worth writing down as opposed to other things, but regardless I have shared what those pages contained with their dog-eared corners. in a way it felt all or nothing. I could have shared every footnote and snippet of history in the footnote section, I loved that conceit, as I did the references to so many authors, many of whom I caught and a number I was so happy to see, like James Kellman and Tom Leonard.
I could outline to you how much I loved the ways that cities and worlds and power intertwined. But maybe just the quotes, like this on what working class kids wish and how impossible it all seems, which is just magic.
I had a wish to be an artist. Was that not mad of me? I had this work of art I wanted to make, don’t ask me what it was, I don’t know; something epic, mibby, with the variety of facts and the clarity of fancies and all of it seen in pictures with a queer morbid intense colour of their own, mibby a gigantic mural or illustrated book or even a film. I didn’t know what it would have been, but I knew how to get ready to make it. I had to read poetry and hear music and study philosophy and write and draw and paint. I had to learn how things and people felt and were made and behaved and how the human body worked and its appearance and proportions in different situations. In fact, I had to eat the bloody moon!” (210)
A moment when the girl isn’t being a total cow. Because this is true too:
She pulled a face and went out, saying, “It’s hard to shine without encouragement.” (359)
And ah, Dennistoun public library. I bet that part is real:
The conjuror scratched his hair furiously with both hands and said querulously, “I understand you resentment. When I was sixteen or seventeen I wanted an ending like that. You see, I found Tillyard’s study of the epic in Dennistoun public library, and he said an epic was only written when a new society was giving men a greater chance of liberty. I decided that what the Aeneid had been to the Roman Empire my epic would be to the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Republic… (492)
There is nothing I don’t love about this:
Perhaps my model world is too compressed and lacks the quiet moments of unconsidered ease which are the sustaining part of the most troubled world. (494)
And a return to my idea to always write down the last sentences of things — perhaps despite the last few disastrous last sentences of the last few books it was a good idea after all — because this made my little geographer’s heart go pitter pat:
He was a slightly worried, ordinary old man but glad to see the light in the sky.
I STARTED MAKING MAPS WHEN I WAS SMALL SHOWING PLACE, RESOURCES, WHERE THE ENEMY AND WHERE LOVE LAY. I DID NOT KNOW TIME ADDS TO LAND. EVENTS DRIFT CONTINUALLY
EFFACING LANDMARKS, RAISING THE LEVEL, LIKE
I HAVE GROWN UP. MY MAPS ARE OUT OF DATE.
THE LAND LIES OVER ME NOW.
I CANNOT MOVE. IT IS TIME TO GO.