‘Acid’ by James Kelman

James Kelman has, without doubt, a claim to be Britain’s greatest living writer (see, for example, two International Man Booker Prize nominations when it was awarded for a writer’s body of work) so it seems perverse to choose a story which is less than half a page long as representative of his skill. And yet ‘Acid’ has such power, told, as always, in a colloquial voice (which is not to say Glaswegian), the fragment of an overheard conversation, and with the seemingly throwaway phrase “who was also the young man’s father” deftly unparenthetical. A story to be read in single intake of breath. (And if that wasn’t enough, the story also appears in Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, in the Index of Plagiarisms in reference to a non-existent chapter 47).

First published in Not Not While the Giro, Polygon, 1983, and available in Tales of Here and Then, thi wurd, 2020

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