cover image Greyhound for Break

Greyhound for Break

James Kelman. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-16687-8

Writing in tough, sometimes grim language, Glasgow native Kelman (A Chancer, The Busconductor Hines) conveys the streets, pubs and tenements of Glasgow, Manchester and London. This collection of 47 stories is an uneven assortment; to read them together is like finding a precious stone under one rock and an unsavory object under the next. A unifying voice throughout the stories lulls with a gentle lilting wit, but that same voice can turn into a nasty snarl. And even at its mildest, there is hardly a page in the book without several obscene words. Some of the stories are only a paragraph long, while others are rambling monologues of several pages. Perhaps the best writing lies in the affecting third-person narratives in which Kelman deftly evokes a mood, a place, a character or a situation without relying on the gimmicks of some of the more experimental pieces. Powerful to the end, this novel is distinctly kin to Hubert Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn in its raw and disturbing evocation of working-class existence. (February)