I just finished reading a novel by one of my favourite ever writers, Alasdair Gray. The novel is called 1982, Janine. After a long night of introspection and an attempted suicide, the narrator gives himself opportunity to start afresh:

Will I start my own small business, if so what will it be? Will I buy a partnership, if so with who? Will I found a co-operative, start a theatrical company, join a commune? Will I invent something? Will I retrain myself to be a farmer of cattle and crops, a farmer of crabs and kelp? Will I join a political movement? Will I get religion? Will I hunt for women through contact magazines and singles clubs? Will I marry again and have a family this time? Will I emigrate? Will I roam the world with or without a companion? Will I discover that I am a homosexual, a cool-eyed gambler, a carver of clock cases, a psychopathic killer? Will I die in a war, a brothel, a famine, a bar-room brawl or beachcombing in Sri Lanka or in the Falkland Isles or in some other remote souvenir of the Great Britisher’s Empire? For I will not do nothing. No, I will not do nothing.

Later, the narrator is addressed by God (a character in the novel) who says this:

Stand up son. You’ve fallen and hurt yourself, but we all make mistakes. Regard these thirty or so mistaken years as the end of your schooling and start anew. There’s plenty of time. You’re not dead yet. You’re not even fifty.

It’s an astonishing novel, actually. Borrow a copy from your local library or order one from your local bookshop.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

6 Responses to “Options”

  1. Wow. Damn. This will be the second book after Dandelion Wine I will have to read just because of reading a quote from it on your site. Great stuff.
    One foreigner´s question, though: What´s “beachcombing” in this context?

  2. Rob says:

    Beachcombing is when you spend time looking for ‘treasures’ on a beach: things discarded by tourists, lumps of driftwood or even jetsam (cargo from boats) that has come in on the tide. Often, a beachcomber will be destitute or live in a shack on the beach, so I think the narrator wonders if he’ll become a kind of tramp.

    It’s a great book. The quote actually did remind me of the Dandelion Wine one too! The exciting list of options and the idea that anything is achievable if you set your mind to it (and it doesn’t even matter if you’re thirty or forty or fifty).

    This one is far bigger and stranger than Dandelion Wine. Most of the book is a man’s sexual fantasies, but he can’t stay focussed on the matter in hand so we end up learning all about his childhood and bits of his youth. There is a massive eleventh chapter (taking up about a third of the book) about his time working as an electrical engineer for a theatre company. It is discordant and strange but I really was amazed by it, even after reading so many of this writer’s other stuff. Maybe you’ll like it too!

  3. Thanks for the explanation. And for selling me the book even more. I won’t be able to avoid reading it. 🙂

  4. Rob says:

    It’s a great book. I really enjoyed it and hope you do too. AG is one of my favourite writers and this book is (I think) one of his best.

    A lot of people find his stuff a little hard to digest and this book is among his most ‘opaque’. You can handle it though, Fabian! Let me know what you think of it.

    Received your email today, by the way. Will get onto it soon.

  5. It will take some time until I get to a place where I’ll be able to get it, as I just postponed my Europe trip. But once I do, I’ll give it a try and let you know… good that there’s no restriction on my reading list! 😉
    As for the mail, no need to hurry. You know it’s all about tempo giusto!

  6. Rob says:

    There’s a Europe trip on the cards? I’m in Britain 10-23 August.

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