It s clearly written by a Scot, for his fellow Scots, and a lot of material eluded me simply because I couldn t tell what Torrington was talking about I felt like a kid reading Shakespeare for the first time The book seems like it could be altogether too miserable at first, but it settles into a groove midway through, and I was truly sad to reach the end.
yesterday I scratched ma arse Today I didnae.
Brilliant book An Energetic, Irreverent And Very Funny New York Times Book Review First Novel Set In Glasgow During A Single Week In The Late Sixties Publishers Weekly, In A Starred Review, Called It A Rich Scotch Broth Of Language, Steaming With Metaphorand Pungent Dialect Winner Of Britain S Whitbread Book Of The Year Award I must admit I hated this at firstit reminded me of James Joyce a bit too witty and temperamental for my taste However like Joyce, the metaphors and little witty quips and smart ass remarks along the way caught me up in the meatier parts of the writing I honestly enjoy reading this novel and just wish that the author had to offer after this publication I really was astonished to discover that the author was actually middle aged in the actual 1960s and not a 30 year old in the early 2000s I really have a craving for this novel sometimes It s like pancakesthat s the best way to describe it.
A blurb on the back says this novel is somewhere in that hinterland where Damon Runyon meets James Joyce I think I might throw in a little J.
P Donleavy as well When I read a Glasgow author it always takes me a while to get into the rhythm and dialect, but I am always rewarded for sticking with it There s plenty of humor and pathos as Tam stumbles through the week before Christmas just trying not to fall under the hammer like the rest of his Glasgow slum You notice there s no plot The author will address that issue in character during the story.
Set in 1960 s Gorbals, this is a week in the life of Thomas Clay, who has taken a year s sabbatical with a bad back , to write his first book.
The Gorbals is in transition, the slums in which Thomas lives are being demolished, and the high rise flats are being bulit.
In the course of the week, Thomas gets drunk than once, visits his pregnant wife in hospital, committs adultary, is harangued by his in laws, stands up to a childhood bully, is almost killed by hard line Protestants, witnesses a murder and much.
This was Jeff Torrington s only novel and though set, by my calculation in 1968, Beatles Yellow Submarine, Apollo space program etc, it apparently took thirty years to write, and this occasionally shows in some of the dialogue which have I think later references This small matter apart, I found this a thoroughly entertaining book, readers South of the border may struggle occaisionmally, but should go with the flow.
Swing Hammer Swing won the Whitbread Book of the Year I like whitebread, but scientists with Twitter feeds say it s no good for ducks or swans The latter can t moult and the young are unable to fly This book does fly, but doesnae go very far It s the Gorbals, Scobie Street, when all the houses were falling down and the less well healed populist sent on their way The ne er do well narrator Tam Clay, 28, wordsmith and would be author is aware that Scabie Street has its faults, all of which he s keen to document, and even the rats have tucked their tails in and, moved out, enmasse, but an invitation to visit the housing office in Castlemilk, or the option of the high rise Barlinnies in the sky , doesn t appeal It s a Friday to Friday stretch in the falling down life of Tam Clay Plot is where you bury somebody so he would have the reader believe, but you can t believe a word Tam Clay says On the day of Talky Sloan s funeral, for example, Matt Lucas pelted by snowballs, undisguised as bricks, and dressed in strips of sheet as The Mummy to advertise Planet Cinemas screening of a film of the same name, stumbled onto the road and is knocked down by a bubble car But a lot has happened since the reader had come in on the opening paragraph a week and 406 pages prior to that, with Matt s wife Rhona in the Maternity waiting to have their first child and his in laws none too happy about Tam s decision to devote himself to drink, and dereliction of duty and finding the right path not to work, so he can find time to work on his writing, isn t as easy as it sounds A problem many of us are familiar with Something really weird was happening in the Gorbals from the battered hulk of the Planet Cinema in Scobie Street a deepsea diver was emerging He hesitated, bamboozled, maybe by the shimmering fathoms of light, the towering rockfaces of the snow coraled tenements After a few moments the diver allowed the vestibule door to swing closed behind him then, taking small steps, he came out onto the pavement which in the area sheltered by the sagging canopy bore only a thin felt of snow Up the quiet little grave for privileged snowflakes desecrating feet had trudged a pathway which shone with a seal like lustre Characters like Tam s bosom buddy, Paddy Cullen, who would spend Eternity chasing a mobile pub barefooted across a jagged terrain of smashed whisky bottles leap from the page, but no very quickly, because they re usually pissed I think this is called, indirect free style But like the Dab Four, the Beatles 1968 hit film, which come Judgement Day they hope can save Planet Cinema shutting once and for all, all you need is love Jeff Torrington loves his city and loves his characters He does not bring them to life and leave them stumbling around a cardboard Glasgow mumbling lines nobody want to listen to Nor does he fall from character to caricature, which, admittedly is easily done, and as Torrington tended to do in his follow up novel The Devil s Carousel and which really did not have a plot, or even a story worth listening to Swing Hammer Swing really does sing If you want to know what it was like in Glasgow, in the Gorbals for the ordinary man, or even the odd woman, like Becky that bit on the side whose man beats her, then read this If you want to know how to mix four parts hypocrisy to three parts religion read this It s right up there as a Glasgow and international classic alongside that jewel in the crown, Ralph Glasser, Growing Up in the Gorbals.
Like a number of other books set in my home city, this is essentially a tour of Glasgow in some ways but this one is of the city working class in the 1960 s, the bars they frequent and their love lives Thomas Clay is a failed novelist artist philosopher but then everybody in Glasgow is a failed novelist artist philosopher even the ones who are a success at something are usually tormented by the novel that got away Clay is being tracked by a sinister presence so he tries to stay one step ahead of whatever it is that s coming his way His wife Rhona is pregnant, his bit on the side, Becky McQuade is a form of sex on tap and much of Glasgow is waiting on something better it s just not sure what In some respects there isn t really a plot to Swing Hammer Swing it s a diatribe of every thing Thomas thinks, says, hears and does It s shot through with Glasgow dialect Christ knows how anybody from anywhere outside of the M8 motorway is able to read it At one part of the novel Thomas predicts that someday, bingo will be on offer in public libraries I loved the idea then and still love it I work in local government if there s ever a brainstorming session about the future of our public libraries I won t be able to resist chucking this in I wrote about Swing Hammer Swing as one of Ten books That Represent Scotland If you are interested in reading about the others you can find them at
I saw this book when the Sunday Times did whole page on The Winner of the Whitbread Prize for first novel 32,000 hell of lot now but in 1992 for a older man in his 70s was blood wonder This very funny book even now after 25 ys I can still remember bits of it including bit about a frying pan a dead budgie.
yeh great Scottish novel 30 years in the making of one week in the life of a Glaswegian drunk who visits his pregnant wife in hospital between visits to pubs and to friends Set in the 60s as the Gorbals are demolished it is funny and energetic and full of fantastic word play A rich and absorbing read, heavy with Scottish dialect found some notes in my 1995 notebook.
a kind of Glaswegian Ulysses with Cyclops the cat, the 3 sirens coming out of flats, his wife like Molly confined to bed although here a week, not a day, she s having a baby in hospital , fags and pubs and beer and darts The Dab four Talky Sloan the Marxist ranter, given short shrift here.