Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman - review by Martyn Bedford

Martyn Bedford

Smiddy’s Tale

Kieron Smith, Boy


Hamish Hamilton 422pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Whether writing in his characteristic Glaswegian demotic or not, James Kelman compels readers and critics to pay close attention to the words on the page. Closer than they’d like, at times. The experimental Translated Accounts was impenetrable, for some, and the Booker Prize-winning How Late It Was, How Late was notoriously damned by one of the judges for its free use of expletives. She would at least be pleased to note that, in his latest novel, the swearing is censored with asterisks. To see f**k, w**k, c**t, etc in a Kelman book is almost as shocking as seeing them spelled out in full by Barbara Cartland.

His eponymous narrator has been brought up to know that cursing is ‘bad’ and it is only near the end, as he enters his rebellious teens, that the asterisks fall away. Working-class Glasgow vernacular is also off-limits, in front of his mum: cannae, isnae, saying aye for yes, no for

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