“Ye’ve No to Wander”: James Kelman’s Vernacular Spaces

  • Mary M. McGlynn
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


The first time James Kelman was nominated for Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize, in 1989, he skipped the awards ceremony. Kelman’s excuse was a writing course that he would not cancel, but his decision to stay at home acted as a physical corollary to his disconnection from the literary establishment as well. His wariness was confirmed in 1994, when one prize committee judge, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, resigned in protest as Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late was named the winner. Conflating discomforts with regional patois, profanity, and stylistic experimentation, Neuberger said she found that the novel, in “broad Glaswegian dialect, littered with F-words … was too much, too inaccessible, and simply too dull … the novel does not appeal to me, I do not find it amusing—and it never changes in tone” (Neuberger 27).1 Essentially, Neuberger’s objections to tone, character, and action in the novel suggest a thwarting of both her literary expectations and her expectations for a realist working-class novel.


Gambling Problem Quotation Mark Award Ceremony Plot Development Narrative Voice 
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© Mary M. McGlynn 2008

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  • Mary M. McGlynn

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