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Saturday, June 03, 2017

The Busconductor Hines (1984) by James Kelman

Book Review
The Busconductor Hines (1984)
 by James Kelman

  The Busconductor Hines is what you might call "Scottish kitchen sink realism," about said Busconductor (as supposed to Bus Driver) working on the Glasgow city bus system.  For those who don't know the "Glasgow Effect" is the unexplained phenomenon by which the life expectancy of people from Glasgow is ten years lower than for those living outside of Glasgow.

  The events take place over a few days,  Hines loses his job, and gets it back at the end... I think.  He's got an unhappy wife, a young baby (or Bairn as he calls it) and a shitty bedsit in Glaswegian slum.  Hines needs to wake up super early to get the work, except when he has a super late shift.  For whatever reason, he has trouble getting up on time.  That was a personal trait I've never understood, like, either you need to get up and you do, or you don't need to get up, and you don't, but Hines is very much a connoisseur of the alarm clock, and Kelman treats the reader to an "Eskimo words for snow" situation describing the various ways Hines fails with his alarm clock.

  The Busconductor Hines was Scottish writer James Kelman's first novel.  He would go on to win the Booker Prize in 1994, and Hines is, I think, the only novel on the list that captures the (now familiar, to me, I think) Glasgow patter/slang.   Kelman also throws in a hefty gob of graphic sex and enough swearing to bring down the wrath of effete English literary critics.  In this way, he is a clear antecedent of Irving Welsh.

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