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Volume 13 Issue 1 – Scottish Review of Books

Volume 13 Issue 1

Volume 13 Issue 1 Editorial

February 10, 2018

MURIEL Spark, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate in this special issue of the Scottish Review of Books, left her native heath in 1937 not knowing when, if ever, she was likely to return. She was still a teenager and eager to see what lay beyond Edinburgh’s vertiginous tenements, greasy, gleaming...

THE SRB INTERVIEW: Kapka Kassabova

February 10, 2018

Earlier this month, Kapka Kassabova won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe. Kapka Kassabova is a poet of itinerancy and transience. Her prose and verse inhabit the physical and imaginary edge-lands of our lives. She was born in 1973 in Communist...

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

February 9, 2018
by Alan Taylor

In 1960 Muriel Spark gave a talk for BBC radio entitled ‘How I Became a Novelist’. By then, aged forty-two, she was the author of five novels, but she still had difficulty, she confessed, in seeing herself as a novelist. Since childhood, she had known that she wanted to be a writer. She loved to...

Mistress of Unease

February 10, 2018
by Stewart Conn

Muriel Spark merits scrutiny both for her poetry and for her concern with poetry as a craft – not least given the number of admirers and commentators on her work apparently unaware of her poetic output, far less her continued commitment to it. Her 1999 broadcast talk ‘The Art of Verse’ opens: ‘Verse...


February 10, 2018

NO CAUSE FOR ALARM O little clock you watch me falling asleep. O little clock you follow at a safe distance my night wanderings through the ruins. O little clock you stare at me waking with a glance as quizzical and bright as Venus. Good morning to you too, little star. SHIRT Old shirt whose arms have...

In Her Own Words

February 10, 2018
by Muriel Spark

THE COMFORTERS They called him the Baron because he called himself Baron Stock. Caroline was not aware from what aristocracy he derived his title: nor had anyone inquired; she was sure it was not self-imposed as some sug gested. He came originally from the Belgian Congo, had travelled in the Near East,...

Memento Mori

February 10, 2018
by Zoë Strachan

One of the many delights of a Muriel Spark novel is the way in which the ground shifts so delicately under the reader’s feet. Memento Mori begins as a mystery: who is victimising elderly people by making anonymous phone calls suggesting that they remember they must die? A detective is consulted,...

SRB DIARY: On Fowles and Fowl

February 10, 2018
by Brian Morton

Something happened, a little before Christmas, that made me re-read, for the first time in forty years, John Fowles’s Daniel Martin. I didn’t entirely appreciate it first time round. The novel’s grown-upness lies in wait for you. What I did remember, apart from Fowles’s brilliant manipulation...

Endangered Species

February 10, 2018
by Kirsty Gunn

The essay is an attractive option for addressing a huge range of subjects in a kind of prose that may be casual and simple, or scientific, ornate or allusive. It has no rules. It is demotic or rhetorical, compact or discursive, or all of these. Its only requirement is, as the word suggests – from...

For Those In Peril

February 10, 2018
by John MacLeod

You have almost certainly never heard of the Tuscania. Nor another liner, the Otranto. I certainly had not. Yet, in 1918 and as the Great War wound up to its denouement, both these British troopships – laden with hundreds of American conscript soldiers – went down, and with great loss of life; even...

Wooing Jimmy

February 10, 2018
by David Torrance

A few years ago, when the Scottish National Party was still riding high in the polls, I was chatting to a thoughtful Nationalist about the party’s tendency to co-opt figures from the Labour movement. I mentioned the former Scottish Trades Union Congress president Campbell Christie, who had passed...

The Debatable Land

February 10, 2018
by Harry McGrath

When I was a school boy in the Scottish Border town of Galashiels, the block of flats next door to us was reserved for members of the local police force. There were six flats in total, a generous allotment for a smallish town with a low crime rate. I could almost count the minutes before an officer...

The Bachelors

February 10, 2018
by James Campbell

The air of the city in The Bachelors is reminiscent of the atmosphere encountered in Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments’, particularly those set in London and written before and during the war. In The Confidential Agent, The Ministry of Fear and other light novels, Greene seems determined to draw...

Madame Scotia

February 10, 2018
by Anni Donaldson

Helene Witcher’s first book lovingly excavates the life of her aunt, Heloise Russell-Fergusson, a prominent but little remembered Celtic cultural connector. Born in 1896 into Glasgow’s industrial bourgeoisie, Russell-Fergusson died a solitary figure in 1970, having lived out her final years in...