I don’t use G****e, or any of its products, so I wasn’t aware — until a friend gleefully emailed to tell me — that it describes me as a “British author.”
I’m a hard person to insult. There’s not much you can say about me that would bother me, but this one infuriates me. I don’t accept there is a nation called Britain. I’m Scottish, not British. The fact that Scotland is colonised by England, under the aliases “Great Britain” or “the UK,” doesn’t make me British. I reject all “British” authority, and, though not a nationalist, I’m an active member of the SNP. While I have no grudge against English people, or any other people based on their citizenship, I loathe England/Britain as a political/cultural entity, and resent being mentioned in the same sentence as it, never mind identified with it. My only interest in “Britain” is in helping Scotland separate from it.
“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doing our best to deny it”
“A strange young man called Dylan with a voice like sand and glue”
For a few weeks in the summer of 1988, in a bedsit on Woodlands Road, Glasgow, I spent my nights hacking at a manual typewriter, writing a horror novel, which would be published by Bloomsbury the following year. While writing, I listened to one album on repeat: Desire by Bob Dylan. One song in particular, “Isis,” affected me profoundly with its line, “I came to a high place of darkness and light,” so much so that I used the last four words of it for the book’s title.
I was 22, and had been under Dylan’s spell for about three years. That spell has still not been broken. I’m one of many writers who applauded when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I can’t imagine my poetic or intellectual landscapes without him. There’s nothing I can say about him that hasn’t been said already, and better, by others, so today, on his 80th birthday, I’ll just say I’m grateful.
If Lacan is correct that the I which speaks and the I which is spoken of are not the same — and “I” think he is — then writing in the first person is the same as writing in the third. Or, put another way, writing in the third person is a mask worn to hide that it comes from the first.