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Volume 10 Issue 1 – Scottish Review of Books

Volume 10 Issue 1

Volume 10 Issue 1 – Editorial

September 13, 2013

With just four and a half months to go before the referendum that will define the immediate future of Scotland, a strange smell may be detected in the wind blowing from the south. It would perhaps need someone with the cultured nose of a wine buff to identify it accurately but suffice it to say it is...

Shrouded in Myth

May 26, 2014

Scotland is changing. This is a long story and a more immediate one which stretches beyond the constitutional debate. It is about the kind of society, nation and people we are and aspire to be in the future. For many people this is disconcerting, bewildering and even incomprehensible. There is an element...

Cannon Fodder

May 26, 2014
by Brian Morton

It may well be that 1914 was an unfortunate choice of year for a literary debut, as Isobel Murray and Bob Tait said of Gillespie on its second republication 35 years ago. Sometimes, though, ‘meaningless’ centenaries throw up coincidences and hidden patterns that go beyond journalistic convenience....

Vlad the Invader

May 26, 2014
by Ian Mitchell

Anyone seeking to understand the current crisis in the Ukraine would do well to remember that the Russian eagle is double-headed. The people see themselves as part of Asia as much as Europe. All Russians are still either Slavophiles or Westernisers, and many are both. Moreover, they divide all humanity...

Tree Hugging

May 26, 2014
by Colin Waters

Contemporary authors, one theory goes, are drawn to the genre of historical fiction because it offers greater dramatic challenges for characters to encounter than the present-day can offer. In the past, this school of thought continues, the stakes were not only higher, but clearer. Power lay within...

Jewel in the Crown

May 26, 2014
by Zoë Strachan

I would hazard that it is rare these days for an author to celebrate completion of a novel with a trip to Tiffany’s for a Schlumberger original. Few advances stretch that far and even fewer of us have the poise or indeed the daywear to carry it off. Muriel Spark did, to the delight of her American...

Mining Fife

May 26, 2014
by Alan Taylor

According to a mid-nineteenth century gazetteer, Cowdenbeath contained exactly 127 inhabitants. Its compiler could not find much more to say about it beyond that. Lying to the south-east of Beath, it had a station from where you could catch trains to Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee. South of the village...

Volume 10 – Issue 1 – Political Poems

May 26, 2014
by Robert Crawford

DECLARATION My name is Scotland. I am an alcoholic. Sexism runs through me as through a stick of rock. For all my blotchy pinkness, I am determined To be less prim about my gene-pool, more airily cosmopolitan; To love my inner Mary, my Floral Clock and John Thou Shalt Knox. I can live fine without...

From Waterloo to The Western Front

May 26, 2014
by Christopher Harvie

Michael Fry’s title appears on an alluring cover: transposing Baltic Ruegen to the Salisbury Crags. Gleaming chalk roughens into streaky red-brown lava-stone. From its lower centre a slight frock-coated figure looks away from us, not on the sea, but on the piled-up Acropolis of Edinburgh: Caspar David...

A Plague on all their Houses

May 26, 2014
by Rosemary Goring

Thanks to railway construction workers and their mechanical diggers, a pit was discovered in London last year, beneath Charterhouse Square, where victims of the Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century had been buried. Though they were laid to rest in a cemetery, beside a monastery, one imagines there...

High Fliers

May 26, 2014
by Susan Mansfield

It would be logical to assume that eagles represent a kind of pinnacle in nature writing. If any creature demands that a writer pulls out all the stops, especially the ones marked ‘poetic description’, ‘drama’ and ‘romance’, it would be this one. In the first two pages of The Eagle’s Way,...

What’s up, Doc?

May 26, 2014
by Alasdair Gray

Long ago I asked a publishing house to pay me for a book called Independence: An Argument for Home Rule. My wife, a Scottish Nationalist, says writing it will be a waste of time. Readers who want Scottish home rule will have no reason to read it, and those who don’t want it will ignore it. But I wanted...

Union Blues

May 26, 2014
by Joseph Farrell

This mighty affair’ was the phrase Daniel Defoe used to describe the events which preceded and accompanied the approval of the Act of Union by the Scottish Parliament, and since he was in Edinburgh with a sackful of cash to help persuade legislative doubters or waverers, he should have known. Defoe...

The Go-Between

May 26, 2014
by Jennie Calder

In early November 1935 John Buchan, novelist, war correspondent, historian, essayist, lawyer, politician and publisher, arrived in Canada to take up the position of governor general. He had been appointed to his new role as John Buchan; he sailed up the St Lawrence as Lord Tweedsmuir. Not all Canadians...

To Keep the Ball Rolling

May 26, 2014
by George Rosie

Last year FIFA, world football’s governing body, asked Brazilian fans to vote for the name that should be attached to the match ball for this summer’s World Cup finals. More than a million took part, more than 78% of of whom opted for ‘Brazuca’ – a conflation of the name Brazil and Brasuca,...

Dancing, Kicking up her legs

May 26, 2014
by Linda Cracknell

Despite late April sunshine, spring was still holding its breath when I arrived on ‘her’ hillside. I was a thousand feet up at Abriachan, where a dormer-windowed house straddles lush pastureland below and the scratch of heather on the open moor above. This is Achbuie where at the age of nineteen,...