In the novel How Late It Was, How Late, James Kelman takes readers through the life of Sammy, a shoplifting ex-con from Glasgow Scotland. Sammy awakes in jail cell, blind, after being brutally beaten by what he refers to as “sodjers”. Kelman, then goes on to describe the trials and tribulations of Sammy, which include with failing relationship his girlfriend, Helen, his inability to find or uphold employment, his difficulties with the law and his new disability, blindness.
Kelman may have been one of the most controversial winners of the Booker Prize for How Late It Was, How Late. As the readers first impression is the vulgar language, as on the very first page the ‘f’ word is used five times and the profanity continues throughout the novel. The lack of punctuation, chapters and use of proper English in the novel may discourage readers, as it can be difficult to become accustom to when starting the novel.
However, the unconventionality of the novel allows readers to understand the character of Sammy in more depth. As the switch Kelman makes throughout the novel between third and first person gives the reader insight into Sammy emotions, which is almost addicting while reading. As Sammy is blind, there is heavy emphasis on sound in the novel, this engages the reader in a new ways as instead of building an image through sight, one is forced to use there sense of hearing. This is an interesting way to compose a novel as throughout the 20th and 21st century visual multimedia has become a major component of our everyday lives, most of become reliant on this type of communication and entertainment.
Through the 274 pages of Kelmans How Late It Was, How Late, readers will be able to understand and appreciate the strife that many Scottish lower middle class individuals face. As Sammy’s character is infatuating and keeps readers on the edge of there seats.