Alasdair Gray - Of Me and Others (4 stars)

Alasdair Gray - Of Me and Others

A clear, invigorating and fun collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning the great polymath's life

Rather than take the traditional anecdotal approach to autobiography, Glasgow’s favourite polymath has spent the last few years assembling this collection of assorted non-fictional works spanning his life as a writer. Arranged roughly chronologically, it includes essays, obituaries, introductions and epilogues to his and others’ books, and even academic reports. The cumulative effect is fascinating and engaging, and offers a comprehensive insight into the philosophy and artistic approach of one of Scotland’s most vital creative minds.

Several key themes resonate through these collected works. One is the great feeling of Gray’s life and work being embedded in, and a product of, Scotland. His embrace of that Scottishness, and recognition that his own writing could be nothing but Scottish, makes for a thrilling and powerful statement about the value of Scottish art.

Equally prominent is Gray’s playful approach to facts. In his short but insightful 1960 essay ‘The World of Four to Seven’ he writes of children beginning ‘to use truths to guide them through the wilderness of mere facts’. The line between fact and embellishment is continually tested in Gray’s writing, with the implication that conveying facts should never be writing’s first priority. These works, Gray mischievously notes in his foreword, ‘describe what I think facts, though readers will dismiss some as opinions’.

Gray has a rare ability to convey his thought in writing that is clear, invigorating and, in the very best way, fun. This book is all of those things, and much more besides.

Published by Cargo on Mon 14 Apr.

Alasdair Gray: Of Me and Others

After all of his short stories, a book of his artwork, a collection of his poetry, a version of Goethe's Faust and a translation of Dante's Comedy has been published what might Alasdair Gray do next? Perhaps the most surprising thing of his career: a suitably partial, polemical and poetic autobiography. Of Me and Others…

Alasdair Gray and Frankétienne

Paintings by Alasdair Gray and Frankétienne, who also performs some of his poems and songs accompanied by Mark Mulholland on guitar.

Elsewhere on the web