Tag Archives: Alistair McNaught

Oxford launch of The Tragicall History of Campbell McCluskie

9781906900557.jpgAwen are thrilled to announce the launch, on 17 January 2019 at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Alistair McNaught’s long-awaited novel The Tragicall History of Campbell McCluskie.

7.00–8.45 p.m.

48–51 Broad Street, Oxford OX1. Free admission.

The book is adorned with stunning cover art by the printmaker Andy Kinnear, which marvellously captures the likeness of the eponymous Glaswegian playwright. The Tragicall History of Campbell McCluskie can be ordered directly from Awen’s website or via the other usual channels. Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

The question that haunts Ian Alexander MacDuffy is why the playwright Campbell McCluskie was murdered at 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday 16 June 1954, for that was the very moment that Ian’s mother died giving birth to him. The coincidence suggests that some universal meaning may lie behind that gratuitous and painful event. Ian tries to uncover every detail of Campbell’s short but colourful life: the guilt-ridden hypocrisy of his grandfather; his father’s success as a shoe manufacturer; his childhood in Clydebank; the death of his favourite aunt; his bewildering role in the D-Day landings; his post-war success as a playwright; his passionate and eventful love life; his ambiguous relations with the criminal underworld; his violent death – because as Campbell himself wrote, in his inimitable style, ‘It’s all down tae patterns and figures; if you can decipher them, then Auld Nickie-Ben’ll dance tae your tune.’

‘Alistair McNaught’s ingenious fictional biography brings to life not only slain playwright McCluskie but also the mid-twentieth-century Glasgow he inhabited. McCluskie’s literary career, social life and erotic escapades are vividly evoked against a backdrop of smoke-filled bars, sombre tenements, and back streets haunted by prostitutes and razor gangs.’  Andrew Crumey

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Considering speculative fiction

A guest post from Alistair McNaught

In his review (for Vector) of the The Water Knife by Paul Bacigalupi, Anthony Nanson expressed the concern that speculative fiction dealing with the threats posed to the world by uncontrolled corporate capitalism may present such a despairing vision of the future that it risks becoming self-fulfilling prophesy. It was a pertinent argument that has become, if anything, more pertinent in the light of the US presidential election, and it got me thinking about what it is that I look for in fiction. I confess that I most admire fiction that is precise in description but ambiguous in intent, and which offers little in the way of positive outcomes.

It struck me that the hope I seek in fiction lies rather in the beauty of the style of the work, no matter the subject matter. Don’t get me wrong; it is too easy to report the horror of the world and mistake that for the only true reality, which was a fault of some writings by Zola, for example. On the other hand, I don’t like unrealistically optimistic endings, despite the fact that they can be very satisfying on an emotional level.

I believe that what I get from writers like Nabokov, Perec, Calvino, and contemporary writers like Roberto Bolano and Alejandro Zambra that I have recently read is a sense that, no matter how arbitrary the world is, and no matter what horrors are imposed by society and by the complexity of human relationships, they all offer me a sense of a world opening up beyond the constraints of human thought and society. That was what I so liked about the mysterious conclusion of the central relationship in Anthony Nanson’s novel, Deep Time, and that is why I like open endings so much. It is a sense they provide of some shimmering possibility lying beyond our understanding.