EBOOK NEW (Lanark A Life in Four Books) á Alasdair Gray

Lanark A Life in Four Books

Alasdair Gray ´ 9 Summary

Ts of ight there were several wandering objects called planets The function of these objects is to patrol our world on the ookout for the sparks of A Burglar's Guide to the City light that is to say human souls which have managed to detach themselves through secret knowledge from the evil bonds of the Earth These sparks are scooped up by the roving planets as the sparks emerge from their earthly prisonAnd as further proof if proof were necessary the planets then deposit theiruminous cargo periodically onto that other celestial body we call the Moon Thus the monthly waxing of the Moon as these sparks are added to it And also the monthly discharge of these from the Moon its waning through the vault of heaven as they are merged with the infinite The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth light beyond As far as spiritual theories of the world go this is relatively plausible Little wonder then that its principle tropes Light and Freedom appear periodically in Europeaniterature Lanark is an example Its characters are obsessed with American Apocalypse: The Great Fire and the Myth of Chicago light either finding it or avoiding it Lanark s goal is to escape from the realm of artificialight into that of pure heavenly ight Others Lanark observes have obviously succeeded they have disappeared when the ights go out This is a risky business On the one hand the only cure for these personal diseases is sunlight On the other hand When people Stories for a Romantic Heart: Over One Hundred Treasures to Touch Your Soul leave without a companion their diseases return after a while So the problem of reunification is not just cosmic as the Manichaeans thought it is also personal and involves relationships with others We re in it together Therefore Lanark s plan is simple I meaving when I find a suitable companion Why I want the sun Of course the extended metaphor of Lanark communicates the secret gnostic knowledge of the Spain in Mind light but such knowledge is in itself insufficient Metaphor is one of thought s most essential tools It illuminates what would otherwise be totally obscure But the illumination is sometimes so bright that it dazzles instead of revealing as one of the characters points out Lanark knows that what s necessary above all is a very specific sort of courage Admit he told himself You watched the sky because you were too cowardly to know people I doubt anything can explain Lanark satisfactorily except Lanark But I do think its gnostic pedigree might add something significant to the comprehensibility of its otherwise alienife forms Some novels are The Inheritance: Part 1 like the Cheshire Cat the only thingeft of them is their smile Can t remember much about this big crazy book but I do remember it was big and crazy and about Glasgow and not Glasgow which was called Unthank I thought it was brilliant but I can t tell you why now Everything has faded except that sometimes i The Curious World Of Christmas look up and there s its smile in the air This novel is a mix of dystopia with fantasy elements and bildungsroman We start in the future where we come across a dysfunctional group of pseudo cognoscenti hanging out in aocal cinema cum coffee shop called The Elite In this section of the book Lanark our hero ives a rather purposeless ife in Unthank parallel universe Glasgow cavorts with these The Best Canadian Animal Stories layabouts there before being sucked underground by a giant pair ofips There he enters a vast Orwellian compound known as The Institute where everyone s a doctor or becomes one He saves a woman Rima one of the ayabouts from turning salamander He discovers that Soylent Green is people and for that reason decides to eave the subterreanean Institute and return to the hell of ife on the surface of the earth But before doing so he is told the story of his former ife as one Duncan Thaw by a portable oracle Thaw The Commemerative lived in the real Glasgow which I was pleased to see meticulously described for the first time in any fiction that I have ever read Over than 300 pages Thaw grows from child to neurotic art student He has terrible asthma He masturbates avidly He can t get a girl His mother dies horribly His relationship with his father is deeply moving The relationships throughout these two central books are so genuine so vivid This human warmth is an elementacking from the framing dystopia because that setting and all its whacky goings on distract from the humanity as it s meant to do But the dystopic sections are valuable for other reasons for their depiction of vast illogical space of an incomprehensible and deeply criminal military industrial complex that will stop at nothing to realize a profit Multiple rereadings are merited That s high praise A masterpiece There I ve said it Around 200 pages mark Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo The Magnesium Factor long and unbearably boring I only have about 200 pageseft so I l soldier through and finish it although I m unimpressed and will probably not pick up another Gray for some timeLater Rarely do I give up on a book if I ve already already managed to read its first 490 pages and have only around 60 pages eft because after trudging through so many pages it feels pointless not to make a final effort and spend half an hour actually finishing the thing But rarely does a book offer me such a good excuse to stop reading it with just 60 pages eft to go The city of the Glasgow is the best and only real character beside Gray himself in this book Glasgow is the best and only real character beside Gray himself in this book in all honesty it is the only reason why I kept reading I don t think that Gray and it is Gray speaking clearly through Thaw Lanark his self identification self insertion is one of the reasons why the book is painful to read is right when he says that a city needs to be used by an artist in order for the inhabitants to ive in it imaginatively or to imagine themselves The Summer House living in it I veived most of my Before My Heart Stops: A Memoir life in an unimagined unused small town which in which I imagined myselfiving all my The Yankee Club life without feeling the need for other people or artists stories to inhabit it And then two years ago I moved away from that small town to Glasgow I don t even feelike Gray Lanark Thaw inhabit Glasgow imaginatively they re so self obsessed and so obsessed with how much better they are than everybody else and how uniue their artistic vision fate is they try to make Glasgow inhabit them rather than the other way around This means you only get occasional glimpses of the real city which is disappointingBut not really the reason why I m giving up on this book nowThat reason is the pompous in which Gray compares himself and his book with everybody from Homer to the Bible to Dante to Herman Melville right after he the author tells Lanark which is a thinly disguised version of the author that Everything you have experienced and are "experiencing from your first glimpse of the Elite cafe to the metal of that spoon in your fingers the taste of "from your first glimpse of the Elite cafe to the metal of that spoon in your fingers the taste of soup in your mouth is made of one thing Print Some worlds are made of atoms but yours is made of tiny marks marching in neat ines ike armies of insects across pages and pages and pages of white paper Isay these The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day lines are marching but that is a metaphor They are perfectly still They areifeless How can they reproduce the movement and the noises of the battle of Borodino the white whale ramming the ship the fallen angels on the flaming Green Metropolis: The Extraordinary Landscapes of New York City as Nature, History, and Design lake By being read said Lanark impatiently Exactly Your survival as a character and mine as an author depend on us seducing aiving soul into our printed world and trapping it here The Magic Cake Shop long enough for us to steal the imaginative energy which gives usife To cast a spell over this stranger I am doing abominable things I am prostituting my most sacred memories into the commonest possible words and sentence etc etc etc pretentious drivel etc etc Wellllll since writing this book is so much bother I think I l just snap it shut dispel you into non existence and spare myself the annoyance of having to read another 60 pages of what you affectionately call arse wipe. Ersonal and political about humankind's inability to ove and yet our compulsion to go on trying. He author himself admits in a rather interesting confessional Epilogue The first thing you notice when you open it up and check out the Contents page is that it is structured in a weird way First comes Book 3 then the Introduction then Books 1 and 2 and finally Book 4 The Epilogue I mentioned comes a few chapters before the end of the book because it s far too important to eave to the end paraphrasing from memory So straight away you know you re dealing with a writer who s kind of pretentious and the only uestion really is if it s justified by artistic effect or if it s just a gimmick On balance it just about worked for me but it was a close callThere are two stories in Lanark which are related in obscure ways to one another Books 1 and 2 tell the story of Duncan Thaw an asthmatic intellectual child growing up in Glasgow and finding his feet as an artist Books 3 and 4 concern a man called Lanark who finds himself in the strange other worldly city of Unthank a place with no sunlight where people mutate into dragons or are devoured by mouths in the ground Unthank is very much a hellish vision of Glasgow and there is than a hint that Lanark himself is really Duncan Thaw trapped in his own personal hell Thaw s narrative ends as he walks out into the sea and Lanark arrives in Unthank with seashells and sand in his pocketsOf course you put this together only gradually since you start by reading Book 3 and only get to Thaw ater on One of the problems with the book is the growing suspicion that Gray just had a couple of mediocre novellas and tried to put them together with some stylistic fireworks to make one Big Novel But despite my occassional feelings of irritation in actual fact some of my favourite moments in the book were some of the most contrived Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability like the section where Lanark meets the author Alastair Gray himself who explains exactly what future is about to be written for him It s very neatly handled But while the Lanark story providesots of weird and fascinating encounters the Duncan Thaw narrative inevitably just seems a bit humdrum and dreary in comparison I must have read a hundred books about asthmatic intellectual children growing up having no success with girls and trying to make themselves into artists This one is no different it s argely modelled on Portrait of the Artist only without the happy ending I found myself having no sympathy with either Thaw or Lanark and I was frustrated by their inability to form decent relationships with people around them How s this for the worst written sex scene I ve come across for many months Softly sadly he revisited the hills and hollows of a familiar andscape the sides of his American Hunger: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Washington Post Series limbs touching sweet abundances with surprisingly hard tips his endings paddling in the pleats of a wet wound which opened into a boggy cave whereittle moans bloomed The Mother Zone like violets in the blackness There were dank odours and even a whiff of dungEverywhere there is this detachment this cold observational uality to the writing which was integral to the characters but which ultimately stopped me really engaging with the novel It s a shame because Book 3 with which the novel opens is a brilliant start and sadly the rest of the work never uiteives up to the exuberance and originality of those first few chapters I feel ike some people may enjoy this than I did so if people are thinking of checking it out I d tell them to go for it and I d ove to hear any of your experiences with it But it didn t uite come together for me Lanark is an autobiography a surreal depiction of hell a The Poke Cookbook: The Freshest Way to Eat Fish literary and metafictional reflection and a discourse on political systems These elements amalgamate into a troubled and opaue wholeacking any real pretence of cohesion an entirely uniue work about as complex original and ambitious as a novel can be "Lanark Really Is A "really is a that defies adeuate summary or categorisation and I feel that any rating would be perfectly justifiable Despite its flaws I m giving it five stars for its commitment its own breadth of originality and being something of a iterary masochist its unflinching contempt for the comfort of the reader Though so much of the book was indecipherable or drifting or tedious even in these unsure moments I still felt captivated and compelled by its sheer honesty and originality Alien Life forms Lanark on the face of it is a complex fantasy of a sort of Glaswegian student Bohemia experienced by the eponymous hero alias Thaw There are intriguing allusions and dense metaphysical comments on
ALMOST EVERY PAGE I DON T 
every page I don t it is prudent or even possible to summarize its narrative or its meaning But a key to both might be found in what I think is its philosophical and therefore essentially iterary contextAccording to some the most serious impediment to explaining the world isn t the absence of a unified physical theory or the inadeuacy of human anguage It is the presence of what can only be called a pervasive evil Evil is an irrationality an inherent contradiction which clearly exists in nature everywhere and especially in people but which defies explanation Yet consciousness demands one How can such an absurd universe produce beings who uestion its very absurdity This is the premise and issue of an ancient style of thinking called Gnosticism the essential presumption of which is that we thinking reflective beings actually don t belong here We have been exiled from elsewhere and are condemned to wander aimlessly in this universe of hopelessness pain disease death and well evil until we are rescued from it and returned to whence we came This view is expressed in too many diverse ways to be called a philosophy but it does have an historical continuity that reflects its intellectual and emotional powerChristianity and conseuently Christian culture is tinged with gnostic influences from ITS INCEPTION BUT HAS ALWAYS REJECTED THE GNOSTIC MODE inception but has always rejected the gnostic mode thinking as unbiblical in its presumption of the essential evil of the world we inhabit Christianity does however maintain somewhat paradoxically the idea that there is a better place which is our true home This it calls Paradise a realm close to God with no pain no disease and no death that is a place without evil Gnosticism has been suppressed by Christianity and also by Islam as a heresy But it reappears freuently in European history in various forms usually among those who take the problem of evil seriously The early Desert Fathers and strange stylites sitters on poles and other martyrs to the flesh are examples as are the medieval Cathars and Bogomils and their spiritual heirs the strict Calvinists and the even enthusiastic adherents of the Republican Party in the United States Each of these groups has their own version of a spiritual theory of the world in which escape from the tribulations of iving is not only possible but constitutes the real goal of Sicilian Lives living at allThe historical originators of Gnosticism were the Manichaeans Persian followers of the sage Mani who developed a rather elaborate and empirically based theory of human existence Look up in the night sky they said and you will see clearly that there is another world beyond that enclosed by the solid vault of heaven Those points ofight we call stars are actually holes imperfections in that vault the casing of our world through which we can see bits of the world beyond That is the realm of Tattoo a Banana: And Other Ways to Turn Anything and Everything Into Art light whence we came and to which we are meant according to cosmicogic to return The real mission and spiritual duty of all human beings is to seek the knowledge by which such a home going can be achievedAs proof that such a re unification with the domain of Alice Oliver light is possible the Manichaeans again pointed to the night sky In addition to the fixed poin. The second half of the 20th century Its playful narrative techniues convey a profound message If you re into stuffike this you can read the full reviewInflated Footnotes Lanark A Life in Four Books by Alasdair GrayOriginal Review 1981 03 10I don t have problem with intertextual interpretation as such It s only that I ve always seen reading as a collaborative process between an author and a reader If you The Protestant Temperament look at it that way it makes you wonder which parts of deep reading Lanark comes from the mind of Alasdair Gray and which comes from the attic of your own subconscious I also wonder if it matters which mind it comes from ateast when reading fiction I read Alasdair s part hopelessly biographical part darkest fantasy Lanark in the spring of 2007 I could not read it again In those days I d identified the characters LanarkThaw to the person I was in ove with especially the artist parts I bet I m the only person who is gonna say that about THIS book Those feelings changed boy did they ever and I d not be able to bear being reminded of those feelings as they probably should have always been in their new ight I feel kinda crazy sometimes This is a crazy book though so at The Radiant Child least I didn t wander into some cookie cutter saneand Man maybe it was the judgemental uality that Lanark had towards Rima I read to understand I don t understand anything the yearning something or other the thing that makes someone tick And this book didn t give anything back for me now It was that damned judgemental feeling I remember and cringe how the men wanted only a pretty face the gaggle of sexuality so faceless yet had the gall to whine when the rest of the package didn t stay just the image You get what you put in Yeah it s a fantasy when tht was the basis all along Not to mention eating of the soylent green Creepy Understandable Like judging someone for drinking piss in the desert Right or wrong I m the one doing the reading all by my onesome and eventually no matter how good the writer is it s gonna become ike a memory altered by one s own perspective If it is good enough to feel The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data like an experience anyway An experience Lanark most definitely is Right or wrong I m suffocated by an overdose of that that shouldn t they want something frustration and those feelings override any objectivity for the intended point I m too caught up in the experiencing part and there are other factorsike what was the point of MY reading it Don t want it to end this way and I don t care at all for class satires and I m really fucking depressed now and did I need to be any depressed than I already wasI m especially fucked up now on the human connections thing Why d I have to relate to this of all books I m in the minority too The Lanark parts were my favorites the skindragonish stuff was Dennis Potteresue I do not know what I just read In the best possible wayWhat can I say that doesn t spoil something It s illustrated by the author And rather well I might add Gray plays with structure And inearity And your fucking head Just when you think you know what s going on you don tTonight I went to the ibrary to see some Tempting Eden local new author guy talk about his book which is completely irrelevant to this review But what is relevant is that the guy sitting in front of me put the book he was reading on the seat next to him when the author guy started talking And because I m a book fiend I contortioned my body to see what he was reading It was some other book by Alasdair Gray Poor ThingsI ve barely even heard of this Alasdair Gray and now the same night I finish Lanark some other yahoo in Pittsburgh is reading some entirely other book by the same authorThat sort of coincidence makes a ton sense than anything I just read in Lanark Posted at Heradascom I wish I could make youike death a Talking to Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, little It s a great preserver Without it theoveliest things change slowly into farce as you will discover if you insist on having much ife Lanark is one of those huge pain in the ass crufty novels that I just wasn t going to be #Able To Avoid Much Longer #to avoid much onger find that I particularly enjoy Scottish Three Times the Love literature for whatever reason and I plan on reading Iain Banks The Bridge fairly soon which wasargely influenced by Lanark It was inevitable that I d need to check this one off my The Drowning Man list sooner rather thanater I was absolutely inevitable that I d need to check this one off my The Bride of Willow Creek list sooner rather thanater I was absolutely out by Lanark Banks mentioned in conversation with Andrew Wilson I think it s the best in Scottish GREAT INVESTMENT, THE literature this century It opened my eyes I had forgotten what you could do you can be self referential you can muck about with different voices characters time streams whatever Lanark had a huge effect on The Bridge I m uite happy to acknowledge that debt In Rodge Glass s biography of Alasdair Gray Irvine Welsh remarked that Lanark is probably the closest thing Scotland s ever produced to Ulysses What it said to me was it would be fucking great to be a writer According to the tailpiece present in Canondale s The Canons edition How Lanark Grew Lanark is bothargely autobiographical a fact made interesting by the book s fantastical nature and was written over the course of thirty years Alasdair Gray s early masterpiece definitely has some flaws weak secondary characters poorly written female characters but is such a wild ride that I didn t mind them too much You pessimists always fall into the disillusion trap said the cheerful man cheerfully From one distance a thing ooks bright From another it ooks dark You think you ve found the truth when you ve replaced the cheerful view by the opposite but true profundity blends all possible views bright as well as dark The book staunchly refuses to comply with the usual rules of genre and structure It begins with Book Three set in the fantastical city of Unthank followed by a nicely nested modernist coming of age story within a story Prologue Book One Interlude and Book Two We then continue on in the world of Unthank with Book Four followed by an Epilogue and then strangely four additional chapters What an unorthodox structure The chapter Index itself even plays a narrative role as do the section titles present on the top of each pageThe Epilogue is where the book really shines in my opinion and where all of the threads come together I can t say much about it but I will mention two things It s much playful than the rest of the novel and it contains an annotated The Lively Art of Writing list of plagiarisms present in Lanark which is just an incredible idea I have to applaud Gray for this inclusion It s wonderful and remarkably helpful for unpacking the themes and influences present in this bizarre narrative It is a dangerous thing to suddenly deprive a man of hope he can turn violent It is important to kill hope slowly so that theoser has time to adjust unconsciously to the oss We try to keep hope alive till it has burned out the vitality feeding it Only then is the man allowed to face the truth I could ve actually done without the four chapters that succeeded the Epilogue I found them mostly pointless and the Epilogue itself has a sort of choose your own ending option baked in that I think would ve worked remarkably well as an ending itselfAll in all Lanark is for all of you that prefer your fiction to contain heavy doses of "both self referential weird as hell fantasy and depressingly bleak modernist realism all of which is coated with vaguely Marxist "self referential weird as hell fantasy and depressingly bleak modernist realism all of which is coated with vaguely Marxist and overtones as well as fascinating social and philosophical commentary on free will art and what constitutes a satisfying ife I wanted very much to ove this book which was probably my first mistake I had heard a ot of extremely complimentary things about how it was the most unusual eccentric and meaningful novel various people had read for ages and I probably came to it with rather exaggerated hopes Anyway it s good but it s also flawed as to be fair This work originally published in 1981 has been hailed as the most influential Scottish novel of. ,

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