The Arts of Alasdair Gray

The Arts of Alasdair Gray

The Arts of Alasdair Gray

The Arts of Alasdair Gray

Excerpt

Arthur E. Meikle, who was one of Alasdair Gray's English teachers at Whitehill Senior Secondary School, Glasgow, and who appears under his own name in Lanark, recalls a lecture given by Gray in the fourth year of secondary school. Taking as his starting point the fact that the Water Board had dug a large hole at Eglinton Toll, Gray told his classmates that experts from Glasgow University had visited the hole and had discovered in it various strange creatures. Gray then elaborated on these and drew them on the blackboard. The last creature had a globular body. Arthur Meikle remembers that 'Alasdair threw up an amorphous outline on the board, surveyed it for a moment, and then said, "This must be one of Nature's few mistakes. It had no alimentary system, so it could not eat. It had no means of locomotion, so it could not avoid predators. So of course", wiping it off the board, "it is extinct."'

As Bruce Charlton's contributions and several of the other chapters in this book indicate, the beginnings of Alasdair Gray's career as a writer lie in his childhood. In its outline, his schoolboy lecture, delivered in the summer of 1951, resembles several of his later fictions. It moves confidently from the author's own experience of a familiar, actual location into a world of fantasy; it allows Gray to combine several of his various arts -- as narrator, visual artist, and creator of performance pieces. It lets him parody academia, and it ends with a flourish, a formal joke which anticipates the farewell gesture of erasure which ends all Gray's major fictions: 'GOODBYE'.

Though Gray had had a prose version of an Aesop's fable (again reflecting an interest in animal fantasy) broadcast on a BBC radio children's hour along with some of his poems, what appears to be one of . . .

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