The stories in James Kelman's collection, Busted Scotch are as bleak as a Scottish winter. Kelman's characters are working class people--mostly men, mostly inarticulate--whose dead-end existences are relentlessly dark. Fortunately, the reader, if not the characters, is rescued from this lunarscape vision by bracing doses of Kelman's black humor and impressive prose. Sometimes, as in "Nice to be Nice," the prose is rendered in a thick Scots dialect that might confound readers outside of the U.K. Most stories, however, are more accessible linguistically, though liberally laced with obscenities. Kelman does not concentrate his energies on character development or even on action; nothing much happens in many of these stories, yet everything changes. In "Pictures," a man notices a woman in a movie theater, buys her coffee, begins to wonder if she's a prostitute. These tiny, uneventful occurrences lead to the revelation of an unresolved trauma in the man's own life. In "A Nightboilerman's Notes," the narrator achieves a strange kind of transcendence simply contemplating the darkness in the bowels of a factory.
Kelman, who won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize in 1994 for his novel How Late It Was, How Late, has selected the 35 stories in Busted Scotch from more than 20 years' work. Many of these stories make their American debut in this collection. [via]