My apologies to those who were expecting to see glorificus' diary on the Kathleen Mallory series by Carol O’Connell. Please accept the following in its stead and a promise that it will be re-scheduled as soon as possible.
Ian Rankin received his degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh in 1982. He planned to spend the next few years working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature, but wrote three novels instead. As a result he is not a Doctor of Scottish Literature, but a writer of it.
From his website:
Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America's celebrated Edgar Award for 'Resurrection Men'. He has also been shortlisted for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the USA, and won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis.During his studies he had to have come across and studied the Caledonian antisyzygy, our theme this evening, and perhaps best described by Maureen M Martin, in her work, The Mighty Scot: Nation, Gender, and the Nineteenth Century Mystique of Scottish Masculinity
Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews and Edinburgh.
A contributor to BBC2's 'Newsnight Review', he also presented his own TV series, 'Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts'. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.
(SUNY Press 2009, pg 84):
Writings by Scots on their country’s national psyche and literature often point to what has been called a “Caledonian antisyzygy” - a conflict between rational and romantic, canny and reckless, moralistic and violent, an idea of dueling polarities within one entity that finds fictional expression not just in Stevenson but in Scottish writers such as James Hogg and Walter Scott.
An unclassifiable tale of mystery, murder, religious fanaticism, folklore, horror, and fantasyIt is a story of two brothers who are raised separately, one by the open generous, worldly laird, his father, and the other by the Calvinist Rev Wringhim, a member of a radical sect which believes in the eternal salvation of the Elect and their inability to do anything during their earthly existence that will alter that salvation. As one of the Elect, Robert, who assumes his guardian's name, feels it is his duty to destroy his brother whom he has been raised to despise. The novel is told in three voices, the first is the editor who tells a straightforward tale, the second part is from the confession of Robert, and "the short final section is the unearthing of Wringhim’s remains by a group of writers and the discovery of the shocking confessions that were buried with him." (Norlie)
This book is available, without charge, from the Project Gutenberg website and reads remarkably well considering its title, subject matter and age. I was surprised at the humor.
Although unfinished, I have read enough to recognize the Caledonian antisyzygy of this work in the conflict between the religious morality of Robert and the worldly nature of George, which is at the heart of the conflict between the Scottish Covenanters and the Cavaliers; between those who supported John Knox and his fire breathing Calvinism, and those who created single malt Scotch Whisky.
But wait, there is more, as Ian Rankin has written about The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
This book has been haunting me since student days. It has been an influence on Scottish literature and certainly on my own Inspector Rebus stories. Set in pre-Enlightenment Scotland it concerns a young religious zealot called Robert Wringhim. Convinced by his preacher guardian that he is a member of “the elect,” Wringhim then meets a charismatic stranger by the name of Gil-Martin who convinces him that they should dispatch anyone who has strayed from the path of righteousness. But who is Gil-Martin really? Is he the Devil, or a figment of the anti-hero’s fevered imagination? Very little is what it seems in this complex novel. Nemesis seems to be coming in the shape of two unlikely female detectives, but the fates have other plans for Wringhim. A psychological horror story, this also works as a novel of stalking, grooming, and serial killing.
Ian Rankin, The Daily Beast (3/31/2011)
In a forward to a 2010 paperback edition of this 1886 classic, Ian Rankin says,
As a writer, Stevenson wanted to explore the various facets of human nature. Was civilisation just a very thin veneer? Did you dare to scratch its surface and reveal the truth beneath? We are all capable of committing evil acts – look at the atrocities meted out in wartime. Killers talk about the "red mist" that descends, then lifts, leaving them wondering how they could have done such terrible deeds. Religious believers talk of "possession". Psychopaths can appear to be just like you and me for the most part of their lives, but then suddenly flip, before flipping back again.If you have only ever seen a film of this novel, or read it last in school, it is well worth your time to read it again. This story of a doctor's experiment in separating the good and evil of his nature, has lost none of its gothic appeal over time and will provide added depth to your reading of any Scottish crime fiction or tartan noir.
This is an important book because it discusses a very basic problem which is still (and forever) with us – how can we do such terrible things to each other? Jekyll feels hidebound in his own skin, made to comply with the rigid conventions of his class and society. Hyde frees him from this, but the sensation of liberation becomes addictive. It is no accident that Hyde is described as being much younger than Jekyll. Jekyll himself is a man of 50, regretting times past and opportunities missed. The folly of youth – that sense of possibility and invincibility – is regained when he becomes Edward Hyde.
This book, then, is a morality tale as well as a stark warning. It's also every bit as claustrophobic, creepy and chilling as when it first saw the light of day over a century ago.
The most popular allegorical reading in our own day suggests that, although the action is set in Soho, the atmosphere is really that of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and RLS's birthplace. In this view, the moral focus of the story is the Scottish character, burdened by dual nationality (Scottish and British), caught between two tongues (Scots and English), its instinctive spontaneity repressed by a Calvinistic church - the very church that once came between Stevenson and his father, and caused a split in the family. Edinburgh is a city starkly divided into two: the foggy old town up on the hill, once the site of colourful crimes such as bodysnatching and of public hangings in the Grassmarket; and the splendid New Town to the north, on the other side of the then newly laid railway tracks. In Glasgow, where I grew up, the common perception of Edinburgh was of a cloudy inner life (old town) shielded by a genteel exterior (New Town). It was - how could you avoid saying so? - a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of place.More on the Caledonian antisyzygy from Martin:
James Campbell in The Guardian, (Friday 12 December 2008)
Stevenson’s interest in the unity of Scottish polarities parallels his approach to the internal conflict between good and evil, and his body of work suggests that each of these concerns influenced how he sought to understand and express the other. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not about a good man taken over by an evil persona but about the inseparable coexistence of evil and good in the same person.It is Dr Jekyll who says:
and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both;Good and evil in one man. In all men.
And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself.
'And in Edinburgh of all places. I mean, you never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburgh, do you...?'"The girl screamed once, only the once."
That sort of thing... is the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls. And now a third is missing, presumably gone to the same sad end. Detective Sergeant John Rebus, smoking and drinking too much, his own young daughter spirited away south by his disenchanted wife, is one of many policemen hunting the killer. And then the messages begin to arrive: knotted string and matchstick crosses - taunting Rebus with pieces of a puzzle only he can solve.
Thus begins Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. This one sentence begins on the note of the duality discussed above "The girl screamed once" is a phrase full of horror and evil. "Only the once" has the lyrical rhythm of the Scottish tongue that reminds me of my grandmother and her endless tea, and seems to be almost awkward juxtaposed against the agony and fear of the scream. The contrast between good and evil that exists in each of us runs throughout Scottish literature and Knots and Crosses.
The title refers to the mysterious clues that come to Detective Sergent John Rebus in the form of matchstick crosses and twine knots. It is also a homophone for the game of noughts and crosses, better known in the States as tic-tac-toe. More duality.
The search for the killer in Knots and Crosses takes one deep into what is one of the main characters in most of Rankin's novels, the city of Edinburgh itself: "the foggy old town up on the hill ... and the splendid New Town to the north." He makes Edinburgh come alive in a way that made me feel I had been there before when I first set foot on the platform at Waverley Station.
But the search also takes one deep into the character, history and memory of John Rebus himself. Once an SAS officer, he underwent training and experiences that trouble him still. Some experiences were so painful and buried so deep that the reader has to wonder what havoc they must wreak in his soul and his psyche.
A quick outline of Rebus risks making him seem no different from many other cop heroes: he has a busted marriage in his past and a distant relationship with his daughter; he's disillusioned if not yet wholly cynical; he's willing to break the rules in order to get the job done; he commands the fierce loyalty of the cops who work with him and the ire of his superiors. What distinguishes Rebus is that he may just be the warmest recurring character in contemporary hard-boiled fiction. A borderline alcoholic and a heavy smoker, he is, emotionally and intellectually, anything but a wreck. Affable, more sadly resigned than possessed of a hair-trigger temper, Rebus carries an air of doughy melancholy balanced by his sarcasm. ... He also has the sort of smart mouth that sounds great coming from private detectives but always winds up getting a cop in trouble.
Charles Taylor, for the NY Times, February 22, 2004
And a final word about Tartan Noir and some references to other Scottish crime writers of that variety.
THERE'S an inescapably condescending tinge to the phrase ''tartan noir,'' devised to describe the contemporary school of Scottish crime writing. It's a touristy phrase, suggesting that there's something quaint about hard-boiled crime fiction that comes from the land of kilts and haggis. The cozy appellation calls up visions of some new niche market of genre fiction, and it gives readers no idea that this crop of Scottish mystery writers, like Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Louise Welsh (who arrived stateside last year with the knockout debut ''The Cutting Room'') and Ian Rankin -- about whose Inspector John Rebus novels the phrase was invented -- is currently doing the strongest work in the form.A good discusion of Tartan Noir, its past present and future can be found in this article.
Charles Taylor, for the NY Times, February 22, 2004
From the website of the Springfield City Library, which also includes a listing of some of the Scottish crime writers and a brief description of their work:
Tartan Noir is a form of crime fiction particular to Scotland and Scottish writers. It has its roots in Scottish literature but borrows elements from elsewhere, including from the work of James Ellroy and the hardboiled genre. The name itself was coined by Ellroy, who called Ian Rankin "the king of tartan noir" for a book cover.Books From Scotland provides an overview of Scottish crime novels and breaks them out by location.
And of course, there is always a Wikipedia list.
Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule
|DAY||TIME (EST/EDT)||Series Name||Editor(s)|
|SUN||3:00 PM||The Magic Theater||ArkDem14|
|SUN||6:00 PM||Young Reader's Pavilion||The Book Bear|
|SUN||9:30 PM||SciFi/Fantasy Book Club||quarkstomper|
|MON||8:00 PM||Monday Murder Mystery||Susan from 29|
|Mon||11:00 PM||My Favorite Books/Authors||edrie, MichiganChet|
|TUE||8:00 PM||Readers & Book Lovers Newsletter||Limelite|
|WED||8:00 PM||Bookflurries: Bookchat||cfk|
|THU||8:00 PM||Write On!||SensibleShoes|
|FRI||9:00 AM||Books That Changed My Life||etbnc, aravir|
|FRI||10:00 PM (first of month)||Monthly Bookposts||AdmiralNaismith|
|SAT||11:00 AM (fourth of month)||Windy City Bookworm||Chitown Kev|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Books So Bad They're Good||Ellid|