The Public Image: Scottish Literature in the Media

by Andrew Crumey

Published in The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Scottish Literature, ed. Berthold Schoene (Edinburgh, University Press, 2007)


In 1846 Edgar Allan Poe published ‘The Literati of New York City’, a series of articles in which he discussed thirty-eight writers well known and admired at the time. Poe wrote:

The most ‘popular’, the most ‘successful’ writers among us, (for a brief period, at least) are, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, persons of mere address, perseverance, effrontery – in a word, busy-bodies, toadies, quacks. These people easily succeed in boring editors . . . into the admission of favourable notices written or caused to be written by interested parties . . . In this way ephemeral ‘reputations’ are manufactured which, for the most part, serve all the purposes designed – that is to say, the putting money into the purse of the quack and the quack’s publisher. (Poe 1984: 1118).

Public taste, in Poe’s view, was generated by a cosy collusion between the press, publishing houses and enterprising authors, all acting more in the interests of self-promotion, or out of sheer laziness, than the advancement of art. Similar claims are made today; but while there undoubtedly will always be authors whose success owes as much to entrepreneurship as literary talent, the more interesting question concerns the nature and operation of a commercial-critical nexus which nowadays includes not only publishers, booksellers and a greatly expanded media, but also festivals, funding bodies, prize givers, universities and other sectors, all serving to produce public taste while at the same time responding to it.

I shall examine this question in the Scottish context focusing, after some preliminary remarks, on the reception of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993), and although much of what will be said here about public taste in literature is by no means unique to Scotland, two special features will be worthy of note. The first is Scotland’s peculiar status of semiautonomy within the United Kingdom, leading to an ambiguity between ‘local’ and ‘national’ identity which has important ramifications. The second is Scotland’s small population, roughly a tenth that of the United Kingdom as a whole, meaning that Scottish writers – and book buyers – form a sample whose small size makes statistical variance a significant issue. As we shall see, these features become intimately bound up with attempts, in the period since Trainspotting, to define Scottish books as a distinct literary and marketing entity.

Poe held the traditional view that aesthetic value, judged ultimately by the test of time, need not match economic value, measured by sales, media attention and so on, and the fact that all his thirty-eight authors are nowadays forgotten (while Poe alone is remembered) would appear to bear him out. Marxism, however, introduced the idea that aesthetic value is itself a product of socio-economic conditions, and this is a matter of continuing debate. Many people have an intuitive sense, grounded in historical experience, that often the most innovative artists struggle initially to gain recognition. But there is also a commonly held feeling that literary canons reflect the interests of an elite, and that works which achieve mass popularity should be accorded the same critical attention as those aimed at a more specialised audience. Whatever one’s view, it is evidently important to be able to distinguish between the aesthetic, economic, political or other significance of artistic works. The present chapter will restrict itself entirely to the economic and political. There will be no discussion of aesthetics, not because I consider this the least important or interesting element in literature (quite the reverse), but rather because – as Poe recognised – it plays the least important role in public taste. Poe’s analysis of literary reputation was, however, overly reductive, and a useful innovation of Marxist theory was its recognition that social and economic systems are self-interacting and not reducible to simple causal chains. Public taste, like all social phenomena, arises from a complex network of feedback loops, the crucial factor being the extent to which any person’s judgements or actions are influenced by those of other people. Viewed in this way, public taste is a measure of the non-independence of personal opinion, and with this in mind, we can consider how literature differs from the other arts in the way that reputations are constructed.

Anyone can form an opinion of a film in ninety minutes or of a television show in half an hour. Books take longer, and this is the principal reason why literary opinions are more likely to be of the received kind. When our newspapers and other media inform us about ‘leading’ writers whose books are ‘acclaimed’ or ‘award-winning’, there is every possibility that the adjectives are being deployed by people who have not personally read the works in question, and it is equally likely that these terms of praise will be accepted at face value by readers happy to be freed from having to form an independent view. In purely economic terms, the value of a newspaper to its owner or shareholders resides in the profits which can be raised from selling advertising space, and from sales of copies to readers. Thus a newspaper can be thought of as an advertising medium whose news, features and opinions provide added value which will attract readers and hence advertisers (the same being true for any commercial content provider on television, radio, the internet or elsewhere). The various forms of content used to do this result in the familiar, if blurred distinction between ‘quality’ and ‘tabloid’ newspapers, as well as between ‘local’ and ‘national’ ones, and the high journalistic standards attainable in all these fields explain why most people are happy with a free press based on private ownership. Scotland’s main quality papers are the Scotsman, based in Edinburgh (together with its Sunday version, Scotland on Sunday, of which I used to be literary editor), and the Herald (and Sunday Herald), based in Glasgow. All four papers carry book review pages which are the main literary forum in the Scottish media. There are also Scottish versions of UK papers, for example the Sunday Times, which carry specifically Scottish material in addition to UK content. The spectrum of ‘local’, ‘regional’ and ‘national’ newspapers is as blurred as that of quality and tabloid: all newspapers are in a sense local, so that a disaster in a foreign country, for example, will be reported in relation to how many Britons/Scots/Glaswegians were victims. Historically, the Scottish press was regarded as being regional, and there remains some uncertainty in people’s minds about its status. What, for instance, should be the balance between Scottish, UK and international coverage, both in news and in the arts? Every newspaper must strike a balance between parochialism and cosmopolitanism that will appeal to its readers’ expectations. With regard to book coverage, there is a general understanding that Scottish books are likely to have particular appeal, and these are therefore well covered in Scotland’s quality press. Certainly, books get reviewed which, if they were not Scottish, would receive no such attention.

The necessity of carrying specifically Scottish content as an appeal to reader expectation means that in news coverage a Scottish angle is forever being sought. If a writer was born in Scotland or sets a book there, this might provide the required angle, but whether it counts as news, to be covered outside the books pages, depends on the writer’s perceived status; and for living authors, lacking the benefit of a ‘classic’ aura, the primary measure is always economic or political rather than aesthetic. For newspapers generally, there is really only one reason, other than fatwah, why a contemporary novel will become a news item, and that is money. A million-pound advance is a story (usually an inaccurate one emanating from an agent or publicist), particularly if the recipient is the kind of ‘ordinary person’ readers can relate to, such as a bus driver or former waitress. Most literary authors, though, make very little money from books, so prizes are one of the few ways they can break into wider public recognition: the Man Booker Prize gets global press coverage, always with an emphasis on the expected income from increased sales. Inevitably, public figures are usually recognised as local heroes only once their fame and wealth are established: we have seen this, for instance, in the case of J. K. Rowling – and not only in Scotland. The Portuguese press have run stories on the café in Lisbon where Rowling’s writing career allegedly began while she was resident there, reflecting the political desire within small nations for famous role models who enhance the national image.

From an economic perspective, the purpose of publishing book reviews in newspapers is to offer content which will attract readers from the required target audience. For authors and publishers, reviews serve in most cases as the sole form of advertising that a book will receive, and among the reading public, reviews are typically seen as a guide to which books might be worth reading. Poe alleged that review space goes mainly to those writers who make most noise, but the biggest noise-makers nowadays are publicists. The book industry, like the rest of the entertainment industry, is dominated by a small number of conglomerates whose various publishing imprints bear the names of once-independent houses that have been taken over. These imprints retain varying degrees of editorial independence, and in many cases maintain the highest standards of quality and integrity. They also have at their disposal the full array of modern marketing and promotional tools, and in the effort to maintain profit margins, the usual emphasis is on putting maximum resources into a small number of products which have the greatest likelihood of giving a healthy return on investment. The result is a strategy which is highly focused and risk-averse: a writer’s first book increasingly becomes his or her one real shot at success, buoyed by expectation and unhindered by past performance. Many journalists and pundits like to be seen as spotting ‘the next big thing’, and hence are highly responsive to this strategy. If the book fails it can be quietly forgotten along with its author – there are always plenty of other first-time writers. Over the last decade, independent booksellers have been supplanted by a small number of chains, with the HMV Group (owners of Waterstones, Dillons and Ottakars) having a major share of the high-street quality-fiction market. The issue of ‘local’ versus ‘national’ is of particular relevance with regard to bookselling. In any bookshop in the United Kingdom one usually finds a section devoted to ‘local interest’, stocking guidebooks, histories, memoirs and humour (such as books on local dialect). In the Scottish branches of high-street stores, the ‘local interest’ sections are typically replaced by ‘Scottish’ ones, often positioned prominently near the front of the store. The UK-wide technique of promoting a small number of selected titles through strategies such as ‘The Book of the Month’ campaigns finds its counterpart in ‘Scottish Book of the Month’ initiatives. The front-of-store tables of new titles, which generate the majority of sales, are joined by tables devoted exclusively to Scottish books. This is a distinctly Scottish phenomenon: no English bookshop, for example, has an ‘English’ section; nor is it usual for ‘local interest’ sections to be dominated by fiction, as has happened with Scottish books. Yet the identification of Scottish books as a distinct marketing entity has evident commercial implications. Just as some books get reviewed which otherwise might not, we find books put on sale in the most prominent part of a bookstore which might otherwise be relegated to the unprofitable shelves. The case in favour of this is economic and political: the practice stimulates sales of Scottish books within Scotland. One could say that anything that makes books sell is a good thing; the question, though, is which books. There is no clear definition of what constitutes a ‘Scottish’ book, and within bookselling the concept is best thought of as a form of branding.

To see how this has grown historically, let us go back to the early 1990s. James Kelman was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1990 and won it in 1994. Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things won the 1992 Guardian Fiction Prize and the Whitbread Award, and the Whitbread First Book Award went to Jeff Torrington for Swing Hammer Swing. Granta’s list of ‘best young British novelists’ in 1993 included A. L. Kennedy and Iain Banks. It was a time when the British book world became aware of Scottish writing as a distinctive entity; like the Indian subcontinent, Scotland was a part of the Booker-eligible Commonwealth which offered something colourfully different from most English fiction. London publishers Jonathan Cape and Secker & Warburg (now both part of the Random House Group) were particularly keen to acquire Scottish writers. Duncan McLean signed up with Secker, and on his recommendation they also acquired Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh. The latter’s first novel, Trainspotting, received considerable pre-publication publicity, as can be seen in the following extract from the first Scottish newspaper item on Welsh, which ran eight days prior to the novel’s official release:

It has to be said that Trainspotting is a bum title for a would-be bestseller – just try asking for it in Waterstone’s and watch the funny looks from other customers. Undaunted, PR people from Welsh’s London publisher, Secker & Warburg, are waging a campaign of hype unprecedented for a debut Scottish author, enthusing breathlessly that the book will be huge and that Irvine is ‘just a lovely man’. A Secker executive makes known his belief that Welsh will ‘do for Edinburgh what Jim Kelman did for Glasgow’. Jeff Torrington, winner of the Whitbread prize, calls the debut novel ‘wickedly witty . . . a bad day in Bedlam’. This month’s Literary Review hails a ‘wonderfully sordid depiction of how the other half dies and why it matters’. All this flannel usually has self-respecting journalists reaching for the vitriol. But not this time – Trainspotting turns out to be a genuine wonder . . . Imagine Jim Kelman with a sense of humour and six cans of superlager, and you will be close. It is revolting, funny, scary and deeply affecting. Best of all, it destroys the myth that the only Scottish urban working-class culture worth a damn can only be found a pub crawl’s distance from Parkhead and Ibrox: the east coast keelie has arrived. (Farquharson 1993: 55)

As well as quoting a wide range of favourable opinions, the piece places Trainspotting within an established context of ‘Scottish urban working-class culture’. Thus, the largely middle-class readership of Scotland on Sunday were made aware of the literary importance of the novel before it went on sale. Poe might have seen this as another of those ‘favourable notices’ by which ‘reputations are manufactured’, but the inadequacy of Poe’s view is seen in the way the Scotland on Sunday writer both reports and distances himself from ‘hype’ and ‘flannel’, considering them in this case justified. We also see that from the outset, an important part of the book’s appeal was political in that it offered an east-coast alternative to the Glasgow writers who dominated Scottish literary taste at the time – something that was of particular interest to Edinburgh-based newspapers. The following weekend, Scotsman literary editor Catherine Lockerbie previewed Welsh’s forthcoming appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival as follows:

[Trainspotting] abounds with a fierce wit and a full-frontal use of the demotic (there are passages here which make James Kelman sound like Anita Brookner). This is a young writer of wild talent. His session in Charlotte Square, light-years removed from the milieu of his work, should be of intense interest, and just what the Book Festival should be doing: providing a platform for the cutting edge of the new amid the comfort of the established. He reads on Monday, 30 August, at 12.30pm with another vigorous young author, Duncan McLean, also percipiently picked up and published by Secker & Warburg and whose last volume, Bucket of Tongues, was the winner of a Somerset Maugham award. It will be interesting [to see] how the various award-givers, after their inital gulps, honour Trainspotting. (Lockerbie 1993: 13)

The scheduling of two authors from the same publisher at a reading together is not unusual at book festivals, since publishers have control over authors’ promotional appearances and see festivals and bookshop events as important marketing tools. Lockerbie herself went on to become a highly successful and well-regarded director of the Edinburgh Book Festival, achieving record ticket sales in an increasingly crowded market: over the last decade, new book festivals have sprung up in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Wigtown and elsewhere, all competing for the same top names who attract the largest audiences. The delicate nature of such mutual economic dependency can be illustrated by the recent example of a major Scottish festival organiser, who was offered an author who, for some reason, was not wanted. A phone call from the publisher, gently threatening that other authors might not be made available in future, was sufficient to make the organiser give way. The press is equally vulnerable to such symbioses: freelance journalists known for writing flattering and uncritical profiles are the most likely to be offered first interviews which they can readily sell. The situation is familiar in the film and music industries, and inevitably recurs as literature succumbs to the same celebrity system. The Scotsman article also mentions the annual round of prize-giving, whose UK season runs from the early-autumn Booker shortlist to the Whitbread award in January. Since 2001 the Booker (now Man Booker) longlist has also been made public, offering a boost to the languid late-summer book market. As the single most important factor in generating mass sales for literary authors, prizes are a crucial, if unpredictable part of any publisher’s marketing strategy, and the talking-up of books as likely contenders is an integral part of pre-publicity promotion for lead titles, even though, as always, a delicate balance must be drawn between advantageous ‘hype’ and counterproductive ‘flannel’. At the weekend of the publication of Trainspotting, the pseudonymous ‘Harvey Porlock’ column in the Sunday Times led with Welsh’s debut, offering a round-up of the extensive coverage the book had already received, and when the Booker Prize shortlist was drawn up some weeks later, Trainspotting – so it emerged later – made the final ten.

Prizes in Scotland serve much the same function as elsewhere, though what is particular to Scotland is the notion that a Scottish prize has to be for a Scottish book. As with the ‘Scottish’ sections of bookstores, this reflects the continuing ambivalence of regional versus national identity. Trainspotting failed to win either a Scottish Saltire award (announced annually in November) or the then privately sponsored Scottish Book of the Year award. But Welsh did win a Scottish Arts Council award in May 1994, by which time he had already published his second book, the Acid House. In a pre-publication interview in The Scotsman, the Edinburgh-versus-Glasgow theme was again prominent:

‘We’re the cultural equivalent of the casuals,’ says Irvine Welsh, with a big happy smile. He’s talking about a new grouping on the Scottish literary scene: young east-coast writers whose violent energies make the macho west-coast hard men seem suddenly old and tame. These boys, and girls, are out to administer a kicking to tradition, and – better watch your step, pal – Irvine Welsh is leader of the pack. (Lockerbie 1994: 13)

The article failed to name any other members of the ‘new grouping’, but during the following months, when Trainspotting was staged at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, the Glasgow-based Herald was able to offer a more conciliatory comment on east–west relations: ‘Trainspotting proves that theatre can be the new rock’n’roll . . . Edinburgh and Glasgow can produce work that is world-beating when they join forces’ (Bruce 1994: 15).

By now Welsh’s work was already a familiar cultural commodity and a source of national pride, though it was not until the summer 1994 release of the Vintage paperback edition of Trainspotting that the book began selling in truly large numbers, being picked up by readers beyond the usual literary fiction audience, who had been made aware of it by the stage version and attendant media interest. Welsh rose to the top two places in the Scottish bestseller list, compiled at that time by the Scottish Book Marketing Group, which appeared in the Herald on 27 August 1994:

1. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh, Vintage 1994 2. The Acid House, Irvine Welsh, Cape 1994 3. Teach Yourself Doric, Douglas Kynoch, Scottish Cultural Press 1994 4. Para Handy Tales, Neil Munro, Birlinn 1992 5. The Wee Scottish Book Of Facts, A. Scott, Straightline,1994 6. Scottish Island Hopping, Vivien Devlin, Polygon 1994 7. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks, Abacus 1992 8. The Sporting Urban Voltaire, Jack McLean, Neil Wilson 1994 9. Glenkiln, John McEwen, Canongate 1993 10. Scottish Clans And Family Encyclopedia, edited by George Way and Romilly Squire, Collins 1994

Apart from Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory, first published ten years previously, all the other books are of the humorous, historical or topographical kind traditionally classed under ‘local interest’ and issued by Scottish-based publishers. Now fiction was being seen as part of Scottish books. Alongside this list, however, there was also a ‘general’ one, based on sales in Scotland of all types of book, and one of its highest places went to William Boyd’s The Blue Afternoon (1994). Boyd was educated in Scotland; so should his novel have been in the ‘Scottish’ list? A book about tartan or Doric evidently fitted in, as did Welsh and Banks. Novelists whose work was not recognisably ‘Scottish’, even if they were born or lived in Scotland, did not. Given the promotional advantage of bestseller listing and prominent bookshop positioning, it began to make commercial sense for a novelist to be branded as Scottish, at least within Scotland; though elsewhere, such branding might have little effect, or even an adverse one, if the writer came to be seen as local or regional. Thus Scottishness became an issue, with many novelists, including myself, being routinely asked to what extent their work was ‘Scottish’.

The idea that Trainspotting emerged from an Edinburgh-based literary movement was a response to what was already by then something of a foundation legend for modern Scottish writing, namely the creative-writing group run at Glasgow University during the early 1970s, whose participants included Kelman and Gray. A memorial to an even earlier epoch is Sandy Moffat’s painting Poet’s Pub, showing Hugh MacDiarmid and others in a meeting that never happened, set in a non-existent venue. As Stuart Kelly has commented, Poet’s Pub is ‘fundamentally a fiction, a response to some yearning for a “group” or “movement” that Scotland could hold up against Bloomsbury Square, the Cabaret Voltaire or the Algonquin Hotel’ (Kelly 2005: 188). The international media proved eager to share this yearning: in February 1996, some months prior to the release of the film version of Trainspotting, the New Yorker sent photographer Richard Avedon to Glasgow to make a group portrait of Scotland’s leading writers, assembled in the Clutha Vaults pub. The following month, the New York Times ran a feature by Lesley Downer titled ‘The Beats of Edinburgh’, describing her meeting with

writers who have smashed their way out of rave culture onto the British literary scene. In a cyber era in which literary circles are usually metaphors, they hang out together in Edinburgh’s pubs, clubs and rave bars . . . They live the life of Edinburgh beats – get up at noon, drink, talk and write the day away, and party through the night. All are young and fiercely working class. They write about people on the margins of society: the young, the poor, the dispossessed, junkies, Ecstasy users, football hooligans and people who live on the dole in housing projects. (Downer 1996: 42)

Downer reported that ‘in Scotland, writing is a form of protest by the alienated, a subversive act’. She found her Edinburgh beats in a Leith pub, though of the ‘dozen or so’ making up the group she named only Alan Warner, Duncan McLean, Gordon Legge and Paul Reekie, as well as Kevin Williamson, her host for the evening, who anthologised all four writers in Children of Albion Rovers (1996). Not present was fellow contributor Irvine Welsh, ‘the undisputed star’, whom she interviewed in London. Literary movements – real or imaginary – make great newspaper copy, but the narrow definition of Scottish writing presented in Downer’s piece, as well as countless others, did not match the diversity of work being produced. Over the next decade, important Scottish novels were written with historical themes, middle-class settings, fantasy elements or other factors echoing the concerns of literary writers everywhere. Within Scotland – particularly since devolution – there has been a conscious reaction against restrictiveness and an urge to conceive ‘Scottishness’ in the widest possible terms, replacing alienation with multicultural modernity. This, however, has created new anomalies.

When The Life of Pi, by Canadian author Yann Martel, won the Man Booker Prize in 2003, publisher Canongate quickly made it known that this was a victory for Scotland, since Canongate are based in Edinburgh. Such distinctions are muddied by the fact that the United Kingdom remains a single publishing territory, and whereas a book may have separate American and British editions, it cannot have distinct English and Scottish ones. For a publisher to count as Scottish in the eyes of the Scottish Publishers Association (SPA), it is sufficient for it to run an office north of the border. The SPA is a major shareholder of the e-commerce site BooksFromScotland.com, launched in 2005 with Scottish Arts Council funding to sell and promote books which are ‘of Scottish interest’ or ‘by a Scottish author’, or which have been ‘published in Scotland’. At the time of the launch it was found that Case Histories (2005) by Kate Atkinson, long resident in Scotland though published in England, was not listed on the site, despite the fact that the novel had been awarded the Saltire Award for best Scottish book not long previously. The omission was quickly rectified, but it highlighted the subjective and imprecise nature of the inclusion criteria. If residence in Scotland makes a writer Scottish, we could count Pierre Ronsard, Poe and Orwell alongside Atkinson and Rowling. If publication in Scotland makes a book Scottish, then the Bible is presumably German, thanks to Johann Gutenberg. Outside Scotland, ancestry is seen as the main qualification for Scottishness, but this view is less prevalent within Scotland, where Ian McEwan, for example, is never considered a Scottish writer, whereas the Canadian Alistair MacLeod often is.

When it comes to the notion of Scottish bestsellers, other complexities arise. For a British hardback literary novel to enter the UK bestseller list, sales of only a few hundred can suffice. Scaling that to Scotland we arrive at a figure of tens: a book that sells one or two copies in the right branch can end up with ‘bestseller’ status. This was illustrated when journalists compared the official lists produced by the SPA with electronic sales figures from Nielsen BookData. The journalists found that in one week, five top ten titles had recorded fewer than a hundred sales throughout the UK, while in another instance, a top ten title had registered no sales at all, prompting the claim that ‘the official Scottish bestseller list has been exposed as a sham’ (Goodwin and Legg 2005: 8). The article also quoted an unnamed SPA spokesperson as saying the list was compiled from information supplied by a number of Scottish bookshops, and ‘as a publicly funded body we can’t justify spending thousands of pounds a year on buying information from Nielson . . . We make no claim that it is completely accurate, but we do take it as an average indication.’

The rise of the internet and text messaging has created new forums of public taste. In 2005 the results of the poll of ‘Scotland’s 100 Best Books’ were announced, a campaign sponsored by Orange and headed by Professor Willy Maley of Glasgow University. At the launch in Edinburgh Maley said that the intention was to provide a ‘road map’ of Scottish literature that would benefit schools in Scotland and universities around the world. Others involved in the project insisted it was not an attempt to create a new canon but only a means of stimulating interest in books. As ever, the question arose of which particular books would attract interest. One controversial feature of the poll, whose initial list of 200 books was drawn up by a team headed by Maley, was the preponderance of living authors, some of whom had only published a single book: the test of time evidently conflicted with the more pressing desire to be contemporary and forward-looking. Equally contentious were the inclusions of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927), as well as the Authorised Edition of the Bible. Of the final top ten, most were by living authors, four had been published since 1993, and the oldest were James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), George Orwell’s 1984 (1948), and Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song (1932), which was also the overall winner with around 400 votes. The booklet accompanying the campaign was distributed to schools throughout Scotland (Maley 2005). Scaling arguments suggest that a similarly representative list of great ‘English’ writers would need to contain at least 1,000 names, with Robert Louis Stevenson presumably being among them.

In the period since Trainspotting Scottish public literary taste has been torn between the overly restrictive and the overly inclusive, reflecting the old dilemma of parochialism versus cosmopolitanism. Restrictiveness gave rise to a recognisable international brand, while the ensuing combination of inclusiveness and triumphalism has resulted in manifestations of national aggrandisement whose appeal can only be domestic, and it is fortunate that such global ambitions are not matched by any ability to do genuine international harm. To the practising writer for whom aesthetics are paramount, such political and economic questions need be of no concern; however, to anyone interested in the mechanics of public taste – a subject pondered so provocatively by that famous ‘Scottish’ writer Edgar Allan Poe – the issues are intriguing, puzzling and not infrequently amusing.

Bibliography

Bruce, K. (1994), “Spirit of Mayfest”, The Herald, 21 May, p. 15.
Downer, L. (1996), “The Beats Of Edinburgh”, New York Times, 31 March, p. 42.
Farquharson, K. (1993), “Through the eye of a needle”, Scotland on Sunday, 8 August, p. 55.
Goodwin, K. and Legg, M. (2005), “Book makes top 10 list with no sales”, Sunday Times, 30 January, p. 8.
Kelly, S. (2005), “Canons to the Left of him, Canons to the Right of him: Kenneth White and the Constructions of Scottish Literary History”, in G. Bowd, C. Forsdick, N. Bissell (eds.), Grounding a World: Essays on the work of Kenneth White, Glasgow: Alba, pp. 186-196.
Lockerbie, C. (1993), “Pure dead demotic”, The Scotsman, 14 August, p. 13.
Lockerbie, C. (1994), “We’re the cultural equivalent of the casuals”, The Scotsman, 26 February, p. 13.
Poe, E. A. [1846] (1984), “The Literati of New York City”, in E. A. Poe, Essays and Reviews, ed. G.R. Thompson, New York: The Library Of America, pp. 1118-1222.


©Andrew Crumey