How Late: An Unforgettable Mess

by valdesjoha

By Johannes Valdes

The Man Booker Prize is the world’s most important literary award given annually to the best novel written by a citizen of the Common Wealth or the Republic of Ireland. In 1994, James Kelman (an influential and controversial Glaswegian author) received this award for his vibrant novel, “How Late It Was, How Late”.  Using extensive point of view to make the lifestyle of protagonist and ex-convict Sammy coherent, the story immediately commences following a two-day drinking binge. 

            Narrated solely from the intellect of Sammy (who also is from Glasgow), readers become aroused in confusion.  Presented as the central character, Sammy is a 38 year old divorced man who speaks in a terribly rough Glasgow dialect comprised of countless use of the “F” word.  From the first page of the novel, profanity is spat out in a shocking manner and immediately presents this novel as a true work of contemporary fiction.  Convincing in its richness, the portrayal of the protagonist’s internal struggle puts a single and bias view to progress in the novel.  Along with being blind, readers must experience the everyday utterances, experiences, and encounters that come together to form Sammy’s stream-of-conscience.  As Kelman employs this effective style, the audience will be provided with a close understanding of Sammy and his thoughts from their formation to their projection.  Unemployed and without contact to his ex wife, the point of view promotes a sense of empathy throughout the novel.  It is to be expected that such a viewpoint will secure dependency on the Sammy as our perceptions are pushed in his favor.  Because of this, we feel like we know the character personally and are left only with curiosity as to how the story functions from a different perspective.

              As the book won international praise with the Man Booker Prize, it also sparked controversy.  One of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger resigned from the panel upon its winning, as well, BBC refused to air live readings of the novel.  However the New York Times could not help but give praise to such a novel that entertains and informs in its unique manner.  Inventive in its field, all that can be concluded is that Kelman’s technique is one that will not soon be forgotten.  Unable to live an alternate character, Sammy’s intellect paints a path using debatable yet natural habits to unravel this crude, bold, and witty work of literature. 




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