James Kelman (2008) Kieron Smith, Boy.

kieron smith,.jpg

Kieron Smith, Boy almost in a stream of consciousness, single-minded, dizzying prose, which for over 400 pages guides you through the before and after of late 1950s Glasgow with its decaying tenements and rats and squalor and then the promise of new greenfield sites and housing schemes, mile after mile of houses with inside toilets but nothing much to do.

I’m guessing the first part is near Govan, where Kieron lives with his mum and dad, who has given up his job with the merchant navy and come home for good and his brother, Matt. Matt’s the brainy one. Or so it seems. The one that passes his eleven plus and goes to grammar school. His mum dotes on Matt. His da respects him.

Kieron, later, gets to go to the same Grammar school, but dogs it to work with his mate Mitch. Mitch is his best mate in the new scheme. He’s a great fighter and has been to Approved School, but he’s a bit slow.  Kieron’s in first year. He’s just gone twelve.  Matt in fifth year, at a time when kids left at fifteen to work.

They moved, of course, by then, leaving somewhere like Govan to somewhere like Drumchapel, perhaps Easterhouse. New slums for old. Kieron loved the old life. He’d a nook where he liked to read and ponder, beside his granny and granda. Just around the corner. Moving away it wasn’t the same. And his granda, who was teaching him about boxing and life, dies.

Kieron’s mum wants the better things in life. She’s a snob and doesn’t like crudity or Catholics much. His dad hates Catholics and black men. He’s not sure who he wants to win when he watches the boxing on telly. This is something Matt winds his da up about, as Kieron looks on. He hates all that. The tension. The peacocking.

He prefers the dullness of necessity, what Kieron refers to as Fate with a capital.

sticky stuff on the road or so ye might trip up or cum setting across a wild beast, ye turn a corner and out jumps a crocodile, so that’s yer Fate, unless you can do something about it, you have a knife in yer belt then you can kill it, plunge it doon…Because that’s yer Fate.

The paperboy said stuff. All people did. They said stuff and it was just boasting…It was yer Fate to go to hell.

Kieron’s got a lot of growing up to do. We leave him mid-stream, still trying to get by, paddling on, and looking to distant shores. Small boys are often a good guide to the future and to the past and not just for Treasure Island. Read on.

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