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the Complete Review
the complete review - criticism



Alasdair Gray

by
Stephen Bernstein


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To Alasdair Gray



Title: Alasdair Gray
Author: Stephen Bernstein
Genre: Criticism
Written: 1999
Length: 158 pages
Availability: Alasdair Gray - US
Alasdair Gray - UK
Alasdair Gray - Canada
  • Includes an appendix listing "Short Stories by Alasdair Gray" and one listing "Alasdair Gray's Fiction based on his Plays".

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Our Assessment:

B : useful introductory survey of Alasdair Gray's novels

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Edinburgh Review . (106) Gavin Miller
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A Spring/2000 Mark Axelrod

  From the Reviews:
  • "Stephen Bernstein's work on Alasdair Gray is a book that should be on every American's bookshelf. In a concise, laconic manner -- well researched, well documented, well written -- this work introduces Alasdair Gray to the Americas (at least the Northern one) and to the multiple talents of Gray." - Mark Axelrod, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Alasdair Gray burst onto the literary scene in 1981 with the publication of Lanark, and has been firmly ensconced there since. The secondary literature on him is, however, still limited, and Stephen Bernstein's study is the most comprehensive currently available. Bernstein focusses almost exclusively on Gray's novels, analyzing them as well as using them to chart Gray's literary progression. As much of Gray's work is, in fact, a reworking of earlier material -- stories and plays -- into novels, Bernstein does manage to cover a great deal of Gray's output.
       Bernstein's focus is quite definitely on the work, and not on Gray's life. Given how little is known about Gray this is regrettable. The "Gray Chronology" at the beginning of the book begins in the year 1969 (Gray was born in 1934) and centers on his prose publications. A more rounded introduction to Gray -- at least a cursory survey of his background and education, and a fuller examination of his life (especially as an artist and scriptwriter and playwright) -- would have been welcome.
       As a literary study of the novels Bernstein's book is quite useful. His analyses are fairly thoughtful, and he keeps a number of threads running through the entire study, making for a rounded picture of Gray and his work. The book-discussions are more scholarly than casual, and familiarity with at least some of Gray's work is helpful in understanding them.
       Bernstein's analyses provide a variety of insights into Gray's work. He wisely offers only a specific view of the much-discussed Lanark, suggesting one approach to it while acknowledging that it is "a far richer novel than this reading makes obvious." By not getting bogged down in the massive Lanark (worth a book-length study or two of its own) Bernstein can devote sufficient space and attention to the other texts, providing a more rounded picture of Gray's work.
       Different aspects of the different novels are highlighted, and Bernstein does not hesitate to criticize where appropriate (such as when discussing, for example, the disappointing Something Leather).
       Bernstein offers a good introduction and consideration of Gray's novels, but what is perhaps most remarkable is how much of this great author's work is barely addressed here. A talented painter and artist (see the covers of his books), this aspect of Gray's life is certainly beyond the scope of this volume. But even the short-stories are by and large absent, as is much discussion of his theatrical work, and that for TV and radio (beyond what was reworked into the novels). It is understandable that Bernstein restricted his study to one aspect of Gray's creative production (and certainly the most notable one) -- though a more precise title for the book might have been called for -- and one hopes that readers get enough of a sense of Gray's great talents from what is considered here.
       A useful introduction -- but we look forward to a more comprehensive (and perhaps more specifically biographic) work that discusses Gray's entire life and output in all its marvelous, manifold richness.

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Links:

Reviews Alasdair Gray Stephen Bernstein Books by Alasdair Gray under review: Other books about Alasdair Gray under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Stephen Bernstein received his Ph.D. from Indiana University. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan-Flint.

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