“Kieron Smith, Boy”

Playing in the Gorbals - one of Marzaroli's most famous images of Glasgow before there was colour

In keeping with what seems to be James Kelman’s project of protecting his art from those who will/can not appreciate it, it is hard to get into this book, Kieron Smith, Boy.  But a rich reward awaits if you persevere.  Somehow, no doubt through careful and exact writing craft beyond what I know, it works – this internal monologue of a 10/11/12 year old boy, maybe forty or fifty years ago, about his family, his friends, his school, his life. I found myself looking forward to bedtime so that I could pick it up again.  But though brilliant as a portrait, it’s disappointing as a narrative. There is no resolution.  He stops the story mid-stream – he has given us the portrait, not the dvd.  Yet this portrait says so much about the accidental, arbitrary construction of the individual life – what matters, what doesn’t, what circumstances determine choices and what choices determine life.  It’s as profound and intense as How late it was how late but it’s equally difficult reading to begin with.  Oh yes.  It’s a carefully constructed work of art.  It can’t be taken lightly.  You don’t look at the individual brush strokes of an Impressionist painting.  You step back and take in the whole, and you are amazed that these discordant difficult brush strokes come together so well.  So it is with Kelman’s portrait of a boy.  I finished it last night.  It put me in mind of Marzaroli’s wonderful black and white portraits of Glasgow in the 50s and 60s.  Shades of grey.   Catch some more of Marzaroli’s fantastic photography of 40s/50s Glasgow here:

Marzaroli Exhibition

Photographic genius.

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