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Alasdair Gray
at the
complete review:

biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Name: Alasdair GRAY
Nationality: Scottish
Born: 28 December 1934
Died: 29 December 2019
Awards: Whitbread Prize (for Poor Things, 1992)
Guardian Fiction Prize (for Poor Things, 1992)

  • Graduated from Glasgow Art School, 1957
  • Worked as part-time art teacher 1958-62
  • Worked as scene painter, painter, and playwright
  • Writer in Residence at the University of Glasgow, 1977-79

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not complete and does not include any of Gray's radio and other plays.

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What others have to
say about
Alasdair Gray:

  • "Gray's writing not only knows that women experience, feel, and often think differently, it seems to be filled with a regret for that fact, and in this way, Woman -- the female principal -- exists in Gray's writing the way she exists in no other current male writer's work." - Janice Galloway, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Summer/1985) (reprinted in Context)

  • "No writer can simulate happiness more convincingly than Alasdair Gray. His prose burgeons with joy, with discovery, with -- as we have seen -- the exhilaration of being with good friends. But this is the fiery surface that is an exhalation over the fathomless depths of despair." - Philip Hobsbaum, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Summer/1985)

  • "Where other novelists write fiction, Gray creates books." - John Sutherland, Times Literary Supplement (17/5/1996)

  • "Gray is as at ease with his seriousness as he is with the profound silliness of his chosen erotic kink. Pretty well alone among contemporary writers, he can afford to let his writing go places where -- you get the feeling -- it ends up surprising even the author himself." - Jenny Turner, The Guardian (17/5/1996)

  • "Alasdair Gray is one of the most important living writers in English. His satirical blend of realism and fantasy and his compassionate use of humor and sorrow distinguish his novels, short stories, plays, and poems in the crowded field of contemporary literature." - Stephen Bernstein, Alasdair Gray (1990) (see our review)

  • "Alasdair Gray’s mind is a wondrous and densely populated place." - Catherine Lockerbie, The Scotsman (13/5/2000)

  • "Alasdair Gray believes in books, and he writes books that defy every bogus standard established by contemporary Western publishing. (...) His plots, like his career, defy logic and expectation." - Ian Sansom, The Guardian (20/5/2000)

  • "In discussing his work, much is made of the glorious literary forefathers he's regularly compared with. Yet if any contemporary author can be described as a "writer's writer" then it's the massively influential Glaswegian, his list of acolytes reading like a Who's Who of modern British fiction. (...) (H)e is one of the most gifted writers who have put pen to paper in the English language." - Irvine Welsh, The Guardian (11/10/2003)

  • "Gray is a remarkably truthful writer." - Nicholas Blincoe, Daily Telegraph (28/10/2003)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • A master craftsman at work, whether with words or images
  • Clever humour, expressed with a sharp tongue
  • Precision of tone, images, characterization
  • Wild imagination, well presented
  • Strong women characters
  • The books themselves, generally designed by Gray, beautifully done

  • Some bits very Scottish
  • Some of the work rehashed old work
  • A pervasive darkness that, despite his touch, can be heavy indeed
  • Difficulty in finding much of his work

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the complete review's Opinion

     Alasdair Gray is a unique talent among contemporary English-language authors. Emphatically Scots -- and the grand old man of contemporary Scottish literature --, his fiction easily transcends national borders. There is nothing provincial about his writing.
     If anything marks his fiction it is a certain darkness and a certain humour. The gloom is not oppressive: Gray is not out to weigh his reader down. He is, however, a realist, and insists that certain things need be said. Teachers and students and workers are not romanticized -- Gray will have none of that. He presents the truth, harsh as it occasionally is. He feels no great urge to round off his tales with happy ends. His catharses come elsewhere.
     The humour is also pervasive: Gray sees it everywhere. He shares a sense of how to employ it with Joyce.
     Willing to experiment with form and style his books are often convolutes of narrators and genres. He weaves his threads intricately but carefully -- a single , gentle pull at the proper place and all the knots come undone, revealing all. Years of writing radio-plays and dramas have given him a fine ear for dialogue, but his talent for description is equally impressive.
     Gray entertains, but he is also both a political and a social writer. He is among the few male authors able to create particularly strong female characters.
     A talented painter, muralist, and illustrator he crafts his books. The words alone suffice, but Gray's illustrations and sense of presentation manage to improve even on these.
     There is no question: Gray is one of the major authors writing in English today.

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Alasdair Gray: Alasdair Gray's Books at the complete review: Books about Alasdair Gray under review: See also:

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