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- Book Details
Something Chronic: A Novel by Bob Cant (Paperback) (ISBN: 9780956628367)
"... Something Chronic has a comic novel's lightness of touch rather than the solemnity of a dire warning from history. It is a cautionary tale, with romantic and supernatural elements, and supporting players who have enough life and character development to keep us reading... " Alastair Mabbott, The Herald
"Tales of the City crossed with the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, set against a backdrop of Scottish nationalism. Wow!" Peter Tatchell, Human Rights campaigner.
"... imaginative and very timely exploration of national identity, sexuality, community and the struggle to re-invent ourselves in an old/new country on the cusp of change." Ellen Galford, whose novels include The Fires of Bride (The Women's Press)
Something Chronic is a challenging, yet comic, novel set in Dundee in 1999. it explores the connections between the personal and the political.
Dundee 1979: Euan Saddler casts his vote in the referendum but then succumbs to a mysterious sleeping sickness from which he awakes twenty years later.
How is Euan to make sense of his new world in 1999? Elephants have escaped into the fields of Angus and mysterious graffiti are appearing in public places. Meanwhile, Radio Dighty offers its own particular version of Scottish values as the way to the
truth. As the Millenium approaches, Euan makes far-reaching choices about his relationship with the past, the present and the future.
Bob Cant was born in Dundee and grew up in Angus. He currently lives in Brighton. He is the editor of Footsteps & Witnesses: Lesbian and Gay Lifestories from Scotland and Radical Records: Thirty Years of Lesbian and Gay History (1957-1987) (Routledge). He is also a contributor to Unstated: Writers on Independence. Something Chronic is his first novel.
2nd March 1979: a young man called Euan Saddler collapses as he is about to vote in the Scottish referendum on devolution and falls asleep for twenty years. The 40% 'yes' vote required to establish a Scottish Assembly is not achieved, but in the twenty years that Euan remains asleep Scotland changes immeasurably. "Something Chronic" tracks the story of Euan, as he, and this changed Scotland, both face the new millennium.
The narrative moves forward confidently as we follow Euan through the byways of his home city of Dundee and its rural hinterland. We visit gay bars and sample the local 'talent'; we meet folk struggling to survive in the 'badlands of Bannockbrae' the grim council house 'scheme' that climbs the hills behind the city; we go to a gathering at the Angus farm of Euan's brother where a masterpiece of miscommunication ensues between the emergent gay Euan and his father's old farming friends. We meet Lakshmi the feminist Scottish Asian editor of the local radical newspaper, Dolly, a feisty community activist from the 'scheme' and his psychologist Haris a refugee from Sarajevo. There are other characters too, whom Euan summons from the dead, who give him their angle on the Scotland they once inhabited.
Assaulted on all sides by bewildering new impressions Euan tries to make sense of a new multicultural Dundee where the industries that gave the city its shape and pride have collapsed and the young have been given no hope. There is a fight back of sorts going on but many long for the days when Scotland was 'purely' Scottish and men were men and women knew their place. Into this heady mix the local radio station ' Radio Dighty ' with its sinister presenter Millar Gibb gives voice to many people's fears by peddling a particularly unpleasant and conservative form of Scottish nationalism where 'queers', feminists and immigrants have no place.
This is a crazy, funny compelling portrait of Dundee showing it to be a city of great character, and characters. The Doric dialogue is superb and wonderfully conveys the strength and wit of the different people we meet. Incident piles on incident as key aspects of changes in Scottish life in the closing decades of the twentieth century are played out, culminating in a hilarious but ultimately tragic bus hijack, designed to launch a ' Declaration of Scottish Values.' The hijack prompts Euan to summon up John Knox, the most ideological Scot of them all, but he quickly goes up in a puff of smoke before he can give Euan the benefit of his reflections.
This book bounces along, telling a gripping and vivid tale. The best things about it are its wit and vernacular dialogue and the authority that Bob Cant brings to his examination of the enduring questions of national, sexual and local identities in our present world. Personally I could have done with a little bit less of the magic realism. The device of having the main protagonist waking up after twenty years was a good one and worked well, the summoned up ghosts (particularly John Knox ) were just about acceptable but why oh why did we have to have elephants rambling over the Angus farms? Never mind – it is still a good read.
|Publisher||Word Power Books|
|Published in||United Kingdom|