Standing Out From The Crowd
This month, BooksfromScotland brings you the inspirational, the influential, and the infamous and books that look at our history, our future and our rites of passage. From fiction to memoir, from graphic novels to current affairs, we will take you around the world and beyond for your fix of good reading. Enjoy!
Bessie Smith By Jackie Kay Published by Faber
Bessie Smith performs ‘St. Louis Blues’ in the film St. Louis Blues. The only existing footage of Bessie Smith singing. Jackie Kay writes: ‘I remember the shock of the grainy monochrome image of my heroine appearing in this sad tale of woe. There she was, a tall, beautiful woman, driven to drink by her feckless lover.’
One of Bessie’s most iconic songs, ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out’, recorded as her first marriage was breaking down, and just months before the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that saw her career decline.
One of Jackie Kay’s favourites, ‘Dirty No-Gooder’s Blues’. Jackie Kay writes of first hearing it: ...
Extract taken from Lanark By Alasdair Gray Published by Canongate
One morning Thaw and McAlpin went into the Cowcaddens, a poor district behind the ridge where the art school stood.They sketched in an asphalt playpark till small persistent boys (‘Whit are ye writing, mister? Are ye writing a photo of that building, mister? Will ye write my photo, mister?’) drove them up a cobbled street t...
‘This is a consistently thought-provoking and well-argued book, and yet the more I read it, the more I wondered about English nationalism.’
‘I think every writer explores the complexities, paradoxes and contradictions of their own cultural and historical background.’
‘Through the blur I saw a face in the smoke above me, a woman’s face: the face of Mrs Death.’
‘Instead of writing, I thought about his character. Who he was, how he was able to move between all parts and layers of life in Renaissance Florence.’
‘Ah can jist see it noo … ma designer Arran cardigans wid be aw the rage.’
‘History has known a king much like Macbeth as Avon wrote. Yet unlike Shakespeare’s murd’rous rogue he virtuous was. Or so it goes.’
‘Soma is skillful in her revelations, carefully drawing back the many veils that shroud family life and religious pride and prejudice, so that her characters are utterly believable.’
‘He had the most extraordinary eyes I’ve ever seen. When he had completed his instant X-ray of my brains, lungs, liver, heart, bowels, and spinal column (while I said usefully, “Emile sent me”) he smi …
‘Our bones hold the nuclear tests in New Mexico, and so do wine cellars, trees and soil,’
‘But they lie, the history books lie, said Euclid, opening the folder to show me its contents.’
‘Will Purdom was a fine and honourable man, who rose from a position of very limited personal agency and overcame formidable obstacles to leave the world a better place for his passage.’
‘He is synonymous with bloody sacrifice, scheming, false idols, lies, cunning tests, death and brutality, fire and screaming, the animalistic, and a struggle for dominance and dominion.’