Shuggie Bain, the 2020 Booker prize winner, was Douglas Stuart’s debut novel. It has sold around 1.5 million copies worldwide. His follow-up novel, Young Mungo, is also set in the Glasgow of Stuart’s birth and follows a gay son trying to hang on to the coattails of a mum that is lost to drink, but sometimes finds her way home.
Readings come from the big hitters of Scottish culture. Lulu, who’s been there and done it and is doing it again, did a terrific reading from Shuggie Bain. Val McDermid, who has written more books than the Bible and sold more than Douglas Stuart, spoke about the sinister elements that make Young Mungo’s apparent friendships with St Christopher and Gallowgate nauseating even for a thriller writer. Alan Cumming, who followed a similar trajectory, from a small Scottish town to worldwide queer icon also contributed.
It’s better to be a stupid cunt than a dick. Discuss? The problem of dialect. There is something miraculous about Douglas Stuart’s success because it happened twice. His alcoholic mum died when he was sixteen. He was still at school, yet on the verge of homelessness. But he wasn’t good at school. The only thing he was good at was art. Yet, he somehow, with the help of his art teachers, got a place in the Royal College of Art in London. He went from there to work as a chief designer for Calvin Klein in New York. He tells us how most folk couldn’t place his accent. In other words, they couldn’t patronise him.
Class matters, let’s not kid ourselves. Douglas Stuart is a success story by any measure and he did it the hard way. It’s one of those unbelievable stories that rich people tell to show anybody can do it if they work hard enough. To show how rich people aren’t rich because they are rich, but because they are innately talented. Fuck off.
When travelling from the meatpacker district to the fashion capital of the world, Stuart had thirty minutes every day to write. He wrote about his mum. He wrote about people he knew. He wrote about Glasgow. 1800 pages that haunted him. Every writer needs a reader. His husband was first in line. There’s humour when they speak about it now. He annotated the text, ‘No Douglas. No. NO. NO.’ I like that. They wouldn’t speak for days. Goin fuckin yersel is ner easy.
Darren McGarvie Poverty Safari’s success story mirrors Douglas Stuart’s but in localised form. McGarvie is used as the authentic voice of working-class lives for programme makers who have come to gawp, but claim to understand. Let’s be honest. We all hate the fuckin Tories and it’s not all location, location, location. Facts have never mattered less. We lost the propaganda war. These guys tell it how it is. If you’re on a pedestal, the Glasgow thing is to knock yeh aff.