Ah’m gonnae use the footballin’ analogy throughout here, sae if ah’m offendin’ yer sensibilities wi’ that ah cun only apologise in advance. McVoices hus a banner image o’ footie fans in the stands an’ it’s pissed aff some Scottish writers whae dinna hink it presents the richt image. Ah’m not sure why. Mebbe they hink that it’s tae common? Tae stereotypical? Ah dinnae ken. Fer me, it wis a smart hing whit Mr Gisby did – he showed as how there are plenty of ‘wee’ Scots writers whae dinnae generally git their voices heard but how as if we worked the gither we’d mebbe a’ get a bit mair o’ a voice in the world o’ Scottish writin’. An some readers micht fin us. An enjoy whit we write. Ah cudnae see naehing wrang wi’ that.
An’ the wee voices huv started tae shout. It’s nae twitter, we’re nae cheepin’ oor way roon’ the world. Ah believe sum o’ us may be usin’ twitter tae spread the word, mind, and yon Angus Shoor Caan (did he git that name oot the Jungle Book?) he’s even hud us a mention on that bastion o’ Scots culture, the Iain Anderson Show. Which must huv got us some mair viewers, readers or whitever the hell one who interacts wi’ blogs micht be ca’d these days.
An’ amangst the wee voices ah’ve been readin’, ah came across a post by Fiona Johnson – aka McDroll – wha’s work ah admit ah huvnae read yet – it’s oan my list. An’ her post wis sortie aboot lists. It made me laugh a lot an’ it made me jist a wee bit sad, an’ it wis then the bee started movin’ aff ma bunnet an’ doon ta ma bahookie regions. Cus Fiona suggested that there wis a list o’ guid Scots writers we shud git aff there an’ read afore any mair grass grew unner oor feet. An guess whit? They wis a’ the same old suspects. Ah ca’ them the Scottish cultural elite (though ah ken ah’m fer a verbal batterin’ whene’er ah dae sae this oot loud.)
Sae I’ll try an use wur footie analogy (in the hopes that theym whae find footie tae common or inappropriate an image or analogy wull hae stopped readin’ at this point and gone aff tae pastures mair akin tae their ain literary ambitions) Here’s the hing. My unnerstandin’ o Wee Voices is that we’re a bunch o’ writers whae dinnae play in the national team. No becus we’re nae guid enough. Fer a whale manner o’ reasons, wan o’ them bein’ that the ‘marketplace’ and the ‘mainstream’ reasonably enough pick the team that will mak’ them the maist dosh. Forgive me fer sayin’ it bit ah dinnae hink Irvine Welsh is the bees knees. Ah’m happy that MacIllvanney is getting’ republished again by Canongate an ma grapes arene sour (ah cannae afford tae buy grapes wi’ ma royalties by the way!) Ma question tae McDroll – an the rest o’ ye is this:
Are ye sitting in the stands or are ye playing on the park?
Cus fer me it seems tae be a nae brainer. Ah’m playin’ on the park. Ma voice may be wee bit that disnae mak’ it a ‘puir wee hing.’ An ah’m nae tryin’ tae git intae the National Team either. Ah’m playin’ footie though. Ah’m not standin’ in the stands shoutin’ fer the national team. Ah’m shoutin’ fer ma ain team. An ma aim is tae pass the ba’ tae ma team mates and score as many goals as we cun in whitever match we’re playin’ in. And sae it seemed tae me that it wis a bittie ironic that with wee McVoices but a week auld, there’s fowk already gittin exercised aboot whether Iain Banks or Ian Rankin or Irvine Welsh or that is mair worthy o’ oor support. Fer goodness sakes fowks. Gie’in fowk a list o’ ‘writers ye must read’ is a) a proscriptive act for a subjective situation an’ b) spittin’ in the face o’ wur ain wee voices. Sae ah’m ca’in foul on that wan.
Ma suggestion is that instead o’ spendin’ wur time contemplatin’ oan which o’ the ‘greats’ is the ‘greatest’ we should be suggestin’ (and daein it wursel’s) that reading some o’ the wee voices here oan this site is somehing fowks may like tae dae afore they git much aulder! Ah’m nae sayin’ the Scots cultural elite are wur enemies (well, no loud enough fer it tae be seen in writin’) but ah’m sayin’ that if we dinnae believe we are playin’ the game an’ see wursel’s as spectators in the stands shoutin’ fer theym instead o’ playin’ fer us – well, we’re kinna stabbin’ wursel’s in the fit aren’t we?
Ah believe in the ‘wee’ voices ah ken oan this site. Ah cun tell ye that Brendan Gisby’s The Bookie’s Runner cun stand it’s ain amongst ony work o’ contemporary Scots writin’. Ah cannae say it’s literature an ah willnae say it’s fiction cus it’s genre defyin’ in that respect. It’s a sort o’ biography bit it’s mair as that. An fer me, the best hing aboot it is it’s git a voice ah recognise. It’s a’ aboot the voice. It’s aboot the relationship of a young, workin’ class man an’ his dad. An fer my money it’s as guid as ony o’ the ‘national teams’ writing’s aboot sich subjects. Ah like it cus ah recognise hings in it. Ma ain works in Scots Voices in ma heid an more especially It Wisnae Me are written frae a similar perspective. A similar world view if ye like. An’ it’s a Scottishness ah dinnae recognise in Welsh or Kelman or ony o’ they ‘hard men’ type Scots. Bit it’s wan as speaks tae me. We all hae different life experiences an’ we a’ maybe migrate towards the hings which speak maist clearly tae us. That disnae huv tae be the ‘famous’ or the ‘popular’ or the ‘mainstream.’ It’s anither irony that the supposed radical out there ‘voices’ git sucked intae the mainstream an then we git telt that they are the ‘authentic’ voices an’ then we a’ bow down at the alter an’ spier how grand they are, which is fer me a bit tae mich like the old forelock tuggin’ action tae be truly comfortable wi.’
When it comes tae thrillers, ah dinnae read theym, sae I cannae tell ye if Bill Kirton is as guid a thriller writer as they ‘national team boys’ but ah cun tell ye his Alternative Dimension is another book which gies fiction a guid run fer its money. Ah dinnae read ‘wummans’ fiction cus ah cannae iver find mich o’ a connection wi’ the experience o’ wummen o’ ony nationality. When they start talkin’ aboot kids n’ feminism, n ‘hot men’ n shoes n that, ah juist switch aff. Bein’ a wumman hus never been ony real part o’ ma identity beyond the obvious fact that ah huv a wumman’s body. (An’ that statement usually gits me in trouble. It disnae compute fer fowk whae need tae buttonhole ye and sae aften ah’ve been cried a lesbian simply because ah’m nae expressin’ ma ‘wummanhood’ as ah gang alang. An’ ma pair husband cannae begin tae unnderstan’ hoo ah can be thus mislabelled!) Fer me it’s juist an example o’ hoo fowk huv tae create fictions when they feel uncomfortable wi ‘the other’ stondin’ tae close tae theym. This is a’ explained in ma short story collections if ye’re really interested. Fer me being a wumman isnae relevant tae the way ah see the world. Niver hus been. Any mair than ah’ll happily sit in the stand shoutin’ fer the national team. They’d guid an that okay. Sometimes. Sometimes they’re ower rated an’ the very way oor society is run means that the team gets picked not frae the wans whae are the maist talented, bit fer the wans whae are standin’ in the richt place at the richt time. Ye want ma opinion oan why the Scottish footie team is pretty mince (an the rugby team even worse?) Well, it’s cus they dinnae gang tae the richt places tae dae the pickin’. They only look in the same old comfortable places an’ the ‘wee voices’ git owerlooked. An’ there’s a wee whiff fer me in Fiona’s post (an comments) which smacks o’ the same hing.
Ah believe it’s the Scottish ‘disease.’ We should stop sittin’ in the stands. We should stop tryin’ tae equate wursel’s wi’ the footie stars. Dinnae try tae bend it like Beckham. Dinnae try tae play like Pele. Play yer ain game guys. Git tae ken the boys whae are playin’ yer game in yer park. Look for the new. Look for the excitin’. Look for the guy whae gies ye a new trick – a different jink o’ the ba’. Angus Shoor Caan fer example. Tattie Zkowen's Perfect Days Trilogy is a great wee read (an ye can git yer heid roun’ his Ayrshire accent). Like The Bookie’s Runner, it cun break yer heart jist a wee bit. Ah love these books because ah recognise ma life in theym. Ah ken that willnae be fer iverywan, bit if ye dinnae try ye’ll niver discover, will ye? Ye’ll spend a’ yer time watchin’ the national team play when we a’ ken it’s far mair healthy tae gang oot an’ play the game yersel’.
Sae, if ye’re lookin’ fer some guid reads – check oot the books pages oan this site. Take a risk. Git oot the stands an lob the ba’ ontae the park an start playin’ keepie uppie. Oh, an’ if ye’re lookin’ fer a footie inspired book by a wee voice, ah cun recommend Steven Porter’s Countries of the World.
An’ if ye’re tae tight tae buy these nice cheap books ye can fin’ maist o’ the fowks here oan McStorytellers giein’ ye free short stories which should gie ye a taste tae fin’ oot which flavour ye’re efter. Meanwhile, ah’m aff tae check oot Fiona McDroll Johnson an see whit ah mak’ o’ it. In fact ah’ve juist downloaded ‘Kick it With Conviction’ fer 77p – whit a bargain – simply becus ah liked the title!