At the start of James Kelman’s latest novel, a young woman is travelling home by cab after a late-night shift as a croupier at a London casino. Stationary at the traffic lights, she spies a homeless man she recognises (‘there was something … to do with his shape and the way he walked, just something’). She thinks he might be her brother, whom she hasn’t seen for twelve years, and her impulse is to get out and talk to him, but she is with her colleagues and represses the urge (‘So weird … What would they say?’). Later, she returns home to her boyfriend and daughter. She doesn’t mention the incident.
This tumultuous non-event is classic Kelman territory. His spare, interior fiction resonates with missed opportunities, disappointments, and the disjunction between thought and action. There is a lot of thinking in Mo said she was quirky and even when things do happen there is a mechanical quality to them. Clothes are