Posts tagged ‘Kelman’

February 18, 2009

How Late It Was How late Review

by justineb89

            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.  

February 18, 2009

How Late It Was, How Late…Maybe a little too late, Better Luck Next Time

by daanishali

Daanish Ali

James Kelman’s How late it Was, How late, is an award winning book about a disgruntled ex-con who can not get anything right in his pathetic life. Written in a Glaswegian working-class dialect, which could be called “gibberish”, along with no apparent structure, this novel is poised for mixed reactions. Ultimately, this work is an admirable attempt to deliver a blow to literary intellectuals that adhere only to traditional approaches. However, the question remains: how devastating a blow can he deliver?

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February 18, 2009

How Late it Was, How Late

by jenniemacphee

Jennie MacPhee-Woodburn

James Kelman’s Booker Prize winning novel How Late it Was, How Late tells the story of shoplifting ex-con Sammy, who awakens in an alley after a two day drinking binge.  After starting a fight with a pair of policemen, he finds himself in jail, abandoned by his girlfriend and completely blind.  The story takes off, following Sammy’s life as he attempts to deal with the authorities, gain Disability status and essentially struggle to survive in rough Scottish society.

How Late it Was, How Late is written in an informal style that is quite uncommon in several types of writing pieces.  There are no chapters, nor any consistent sentence or grammatical structure.  Many readers may find it quite difficult to understand and follow in the beginning due to the disorganization and cluttered thoughts.  However, Kelman wrote in this style in order for Sammy to really get into the reader’s head.  The words are Sammy’s exact thoughts on paper, making it easy to understand his thinking because it is very honest and blatant.

Trust is a main theme reoccurring throughout the novel.  Due to Sammy’s unexpected case of blindness, he is naturally left to question and be suspicious of everyone he meets in order to protect himself.  When Sammy meets a neighbour who is referred to as Boab, Sammy says “It wasnay that he didnay trust him, he did trust him…ye just don’t take chances, ye don’t take chances.  That’s all there is to it” (149).  Kelman does an excellent job of, from the perspective of Sammy, emphasizing descriptive sounds and feelings in replacement of the typically large amounts of emphasis on sight in literature.  For example, “The stone wall was wet.  Obviously it was wet it was raining.  Just it felt funny, damp and gritty.  It had a good smell, fresh…” (247).  This is another example of how Kelman writes in such a way to highlight the protagonist’s struggle and circumstance.

A new lifelong challenge, and reoccuring theme that is presented to Sammy is learning to become independent.  One of the greatest struggles he comes to terms with early on in the book is to break his habit of always asking for assistance with everything he does.  When Boab says to him, “I’ll do it for ye son don’t worry about it”, Sammy replies, “Aye but I want to do it myself I mean…”(146).  The reader can see here that he needs a lot of help in the beginning but understands he needs to learn to become an independent man.

The language in How Late it Was, How Late is very coarse and vulgar.  Because the novel is written as direct thoughts from Sammy’s head, the use of language is a clear reflection of the feelings he has in response to the struggles in life he is faced with.  As well the language gives the reader an insight into Scottish society.

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February 18, 2009

How Late It Was, How Late: It Tastes Awful. And It Works

by martazem

Marta Zemojtel
English 213

“I mean that was something about Sammy, yer man, know what I’m saying, a lot of cunts would have done their box. But he hadnay. He had survived it…..The nightmare was over. So how come he still couldnay see fuck all?”

            It is through the use of such raw language, uninhibited grammar and erratic thought processes that Kelman throws decency, politeness, conventional literary style and spell-check out the window. The reader is left with the exposed struggle of a flawed yet charming character whose personal, cultural and socio-economic problems are only magnified by his half-hearted attempts to alleviate them.

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February 10, 2009


by brooksbrendan


Well I guess I will never really have an answer to my question. I suppose in many ways it was selfish of me to ask. As it was pointed we could argue semantics all day and still never have an answer

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February 8, 2009

How late it was how late discussion blog

by justineb89

By: Justine Burlo and Jennie MacPhee-Woodburn 

James Kelman has been known to say make many controversial statements regarding literature, culture and politics. For example, during his acceptance speech for the Booker Prize, Kelman is quoted saying “My culture and my language have a right to exist”. Similarly, How Late It Was, How Late has been deemed but several critics to be a violent, brutal piece, however besides Sammys encounter with the police there are no other examples of physical brutality in the novel.

As Kelman is quoted saying in an interview with Lesley Mcdowell from The Independant newspaper, “It just depends – you have to look below the surface for what the real attack is, and the real attack on my own work is usually quite a political attack, you know. Often it’s just class: I usually get asked at some point, do I still believe the working class exists? Sometimes you forget about notions of class until you realise the class attacks are being perpetrated from the other classes against working-class people,” he explains. “And it might be through the medium of language and the education system, or it might be through claims for industrial disease, which is basically a working-class condition. And then you’re aware that sure, there’s class warfare, but it’s usually directed against the working-class people from above.”

As previously stated, How Late It Was, How Late has been criticized as being an aggressive and violent piece full of profanity. However it is one of Kelmans several attempts to address the issues of the Scottish middle class as well as allow outsiders the opportunity, through the eyes of Sammy, to understand the struggle of survival individuals in the scottish middle class face.

Critics have described How Late It Was, How Late as a violent text. How can it be violent when there are no guns or knives and there is no brawling? 

The welfare bureaucracy in How Late It Was, How Late persecutes Sammy rather than helps him. Are there any clues in the text as to why Kelman’s vision of society is so grim? 

Why did Kelman choose to call his book How Late It Was, How Late? How does the title relate to the novel?

Works Cited 

Mcdowell, Lesley. “James Kelman: Look back in anger”. The Independent. 21 May 2004. 8 February 2009.



February 4, 2009

How Late it was, How late

by billyev

Bill Everitt

How late it was, How late (HL) is the compelling story of an unfortunate man within a society which is still trying to establish its self determination.  Sammy Samuels is representative of a larger population of people within Scotland as well as other colonized countries, who have more or less been marginalized as a country by England (and similar colonial powers).

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