“A gallus wee Glesga robin is blown off-course by an unseasonal gale onto a rollercoaster flight of discovery in the Dear Green Place.”
There are important books that make for grim or difficult reading. What Starts Here Stops Here: A Tale of Glasgow and the World is not one of them. It is a book of urgent importance, but it is also a joy to read. Combining the incantatory writing of babs nicgriogair and the glorious artwork of Annabel Wright, it is presented as a children’s book, and it is that — but it is a children’s book for adults, and also an adults’ book for children, showing the history of Glasgow, and of the racism, classism, capitalism and arrogant human exceptionalism that has brought the world to its present (and likely final) crisis.
Told from the perspective of a time-travelling robin who meets James Watt, Angus Smith, and “the Birdman of Pollok” Colin MacLeod, as well as interacting with Glasgow’s murals, this short, huge, beautiful book not only diagnoses our societal disease and its causes, but gently points the way to health.
Although Lisa Tuttle has long been a major name, I had somehow not read her until daishin recently introduced me to her work. Neither of these books has a story that is merely very good; every one is great — sparse, vivid, tense, and offering no resolutions or pat explanations.
In the events I did while in France, it was common for people not just to ask me if The Champion’s New Clothes/Le Champion Nu is autobiographical, but to seem to want it to be. (It isn’t.)
My Scottish and American novels have one thing in common: they’re the stories of people and places, not a person, and not this person. It’s currently fashionable to talk about “the right to tell your own story” — but what if, like me, you don’t want to tell your own story, because you don’t find it interesting? And “the right to tell your own story” isn’t a right, because it’s dependent on people being interested in listening to the story you’re telling. Otherwise, you’re not telling a story, just talking to yourself, and even you might not be listening.
At Un aller-retour dans le noir today, my book Le Champion Nu, which I wrote 32 years ago, won the Prix Marianne. Pau is a beautiful city, and the festival is a marvel (amazing to see so many people of all ages who’re serious about books), and I’ve made some new friends.
Speaking of friends… I’m immensely grateful to Mikael Demets, my editor at Editions Tusitala for publishing this book and Le livre de l’homme, and to the great Laurence Viallet, who translated them. Nine bows.