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How Late It Was, How Late: A Novel Paperback
by James Kelman. Edition Date:: 10/17/2005
Winner of the Booker Prize: "A work of marvelous vibrance and richness of character."--New York Times Book Review
One Sunday morning in Glasgow, shoplifting ex-con Sammy awakens in an alley, wearing another man's shoes and trying to remember his two-day drinking binge. He gets in a scrap with some soldiers and revives in a jail cell, badly beaten and, he slowly discovers, completely blind. And things get worse: his girlfriend disappears, the police question him for a crime they won't name, and his stab at disability compensation embroils him in the Kafkaesque red tape of the welfare bureaucracy. Told in the utterly uncensored language of the Scottish working class, this is a dark and subtly political parable of struggle and survival, rich with irony and black humor.
About the Author

Kelman is a Scottish novelist and essayist scarcely known in the U.S., though the present book caused a stir in Britain when it won the prestigious Booker Prize (apparently as a compromise choice) and was roundly abused by one of the judges as "inaccessible." It isnay that bad. Once past that artily inappropriate title, it's the harsh, gritty story of Samuels, a Glaswegian drifter and petty crook who has been in and out of jail. As the book opens, he awakens on a Sunday morning in an alley after a two-day binge of which he has little memory. He gets in a scrap with the police, and when he next comes to, he's in jail-and has lost his eyesight. The book is an overextended stream-of-consciousness in which Sammy tries to come to terms with his blindness, get some sort of medical assistance, find out where his girlfriend disappeared to and fend off the police, who believe he is close to a buddy they suspect of political terrorism. Most of Sammy's thoughts, numbingly obscene and repetitious as they are, seem authentic (though there are a few unlikely choices of words for one so determinedly unliterary). He has a combination of dour courage and suspicion that rings true, and some of the dialogue in scenes with various state authorities, cops and later his teenage son, are finely wrought, tense and darkly funny. But it seems unlikely many American readers would want to struggle with the alien idiom for these rather meager rewards. 

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