‘Kreativ Riting’ by Brian McCabe

Brian McCabe’s ‘Kreativ Riting’ remains, for me, the most accurate portrayal of the classroom in Scottish fiction. Lasting only one ill-fated lesson, it begins when English teacher PK (“ ‘cause his name’s Pitcairn and he’s a nut”) decides a period of creative writing is in order. The lesson is soon disrupted by the narrator, Joe, a pupil who, we soon discover, likes to be the centre of attention. Of course, any experienced teacher will tell you that PK’s plan – asking the pupils to empty their heads, listen to classical music, and write down “whatever floats into your mind” – is far from fool-proof. As well as being very funny, what makes the story interesting is that, although Joe’s favourite gambit is to impersonate a Neanderthal by hitting his head with his fist, his intelligence cannot be disguised – punning punctuation into punk-tuition for example. What he eventually writes, and what he does with it, make for a rather downbeat ending, however.

First published in In a Dark Room with a Stranger, Hamish Hamilton, 1993