Throughout the Emerging Critics pilot programme mentees were allocated writing assignments. These varied in length, style and scope. Sometimes groups focussed on the same book and at other times individual titles were chosen. Below is a sample of some of the writing produced.

The Panopticon

April 12, 2017
by Ian Abbott

Designed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century The Panopticon is a brutal architectural design; it allows all inmates of an institution to be observed by a single watcher without the inmates being able to tell if they’re being watched or not. A radical surveillance that can dictate...

Where Does Pain Go?

April 12, 2017
by Freddie Alexander

One of the first details we learn about Candia McWilliam, Scottish author of ‘Debateable Land’ (1994), in her autobiography ‘What To Look For In Winter’ is that she is now functionally blind. That is, she has fully operational eyes which refuse to open, a result of the effects of blepharospasm. We...

A New and Second Sight

April 12, 2017
by Laura Morgan

‘I felt as if / I was nothing, no one, I was everything to her, I was hers,’ writes Sharon Olds in ‘First Birth’. For Chitra Ramaswamy this self-immolation begins much earlier in pregnancy. She becomes breathless as her organs make room for the foetus, and later suspects the two heartbeats inside...

In Search of Dùthchas

April 12, 2017
by Liam Alastair Crouse

‘Is there any culture more remote from an understanding of its own place-names meanings than Scotland’s, thanks to the loss of Gaelic?’ mused Alec Finlay in a recent blogpost of ‘cruinneachadh’, an eco-poetic exploration of the Cairngorms. Nowadays, Scotland’s official tongue often lurks...

A Suitable End

April 10, 2017
by Hilary Bell

M. Forster, in Aspects of the Novel, said that nearly every novel’s ending is “feeble”. A conclusion is often written just for the sake of it, to the detriment of the characters, with novelists completing their novel with either a marriage or a death. But with Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon, published...

A Memoir in Blindness

April 8, 2017
by Annie Rutherford

Candia McWilliam has an eye for the contradictions at the heart of things, from the burning heat of an ice tray to the superstitions we cherish but never keep. Her memoir, What to Look for in Winter, is in part an exploration, by turns heart-wrenching, ironic and celebratory, of these contradictions....

Jimmy this, Jimmy that

April 8, 2017
by Rachel Rankin

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I had neither read nor seen Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting until early 2016 when I picked up a cheap copy in Waterstones on Princes Street.Drawn by the hype, the reputation, and the striking front cover – a human skull imposed upon a glossy white background – I...

Of the Devil’s Party

April 8, 2017
by Jacqueline Thompson

On 15 November 1959, Kansan farmer Herb Clutter’s throat was cut, his head blown open by a 12-gauge shotgun. His teenage son Kenyon’s final moments were spent bound and gagged yards from this scene, before he too was shot at point blank range. Soon after, Kenyon’s sister Nancy uttered her last...

Hame? It’s kind of a metaphor

April 8, 2017
by Rebecca Raeburn

Inscribed on the Rotunda Monument at Bannockburn are the words ‘You win me, who take me most to heart’. Written by Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie, they evoke, alongside the rest of the verse, a sentiment that moves beyond nationalism; that pulls down fence posts and walls, reaffirming the transient...

Cosy Apocalyse

April 8, 2017
by Ceris Aston

The scene: King Lear in a pool of blue light, watches a hallucination of his three daughters, stumbles. Or: An actor has a heart attack on stage, efforts by a trainee paramedic to save him are unsuccessful, a little girl cries and is pacified by the gift of a glass paperweight. Or: This is the...

In the Company of a Master

April 8, 2017
by Alasdair McKillop

There are no more than a handful of major events in A Far Cry From Kensington but it would take a long time to convey a true sense of the novel. The story is told from the perspective of Mrs Hawkins – christened Agnes and only Nancy towards the end – as she recalls the mid-1950s when she lived in...

Borrowing Time

April 8, 2017
by Laura Waddell

“I’m into borrowed time now, my mother said on her 70th birthday.” Among the first clutch of novelistic responses to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, Jenni Daiches’ third novel Borrowed Time is a gentle, memoir-like reckoning of one woman’s life as she approaches both her 70th...

Warmed by Global Warming

April 8, 2017
by Christopher Silver

Jenni Fagan’s prose is devastating and unadorned. This is a quality that cannot be dispelled throughout this difficult second novel, which deals with that most difficult of subjects – the possibility that human life will soon become irrevocably changed due to our impact on the Earth’s climate. The...

Reject Non-Racism, Embrace Anti-Racism

April 8, 2017
by Tim Craven

Marlon James, author of the 2015 Man Booker Prize-winning Brief history of Seven Killings, argues that it is not enough to be ‘non-racist’. We might feel mortally secure in our non-racism by not doing or saying anything overtly racist, but James urges us to evolve from non-racists into anti-racists,...

A love letter to Scotland?

April 8, 2017
by Stewart Smith

Annalena McAfee sees her second adult novel, Hame, as a love letter to Scotland.  But fond as her portrait is, it never quite rings true. The novel concerns a fish-out-of-water scholar’s attempts to research the life of a cantankerous Hebridean poet, Grigor McWatt. A New Yorker of Canadian and Scottish...

No One is Free

April 8, 2017
by Hayden Westfield-Bell

No one is free in Fagan’s, Panopticon. There is always someone watching from above – and not the omnipresent benevolent kind of onlooker. ‘They’re there when I fight, and fuck, and wank’ writes Anais, protagonist of a world bristling with antagonists. All it takes is a funny...

Trying to Catch a Chipmunk

April 7, 2017
by Jenny Messenger

Candia McWilliam is hard on herself. Convinced as a child of her ugliness and unwantedness, she is no kinder in adulthood, describing herself in her memoir “as a disaster in a room, as though someone has let in a maimed domestic animal and half killed it, for its own respite”. What to Look for in...