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Bryan Beattie and Gerry Hassan (eds): Imagination - Stories Of Scotland’s Future (Big Sky Press)

What does a modern Scotland look like?

How much is its story changing? This collection of short stories, the result of the national A Scottish Wave of Change project, explores those questions from a variety of points of view.

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Some do so a little too literally (I found myself searching for a story or a poem that didn’t mention the word “Scotland”); some prefer metaphors and magic. Inevitably, the question for a critic becomes: what does a modern literary Scotland look like? How much this collection is representative is debatable.

But the editors have to be commended for spreading their nets as widely as possible. James Robertson opens the volume with a personal and political piece that looks at reflections by Sir Walter Scott on the nature of change – Scott was about to be made bankrupt, after many successful years as a historical novelist, but he didn’t know that yet. That sense of disaster – or triumph – so close at hand permeates many of the stories here, from Alan Warner’s Rasta Angus, whose past political agitation has left him here, by a canal, living in squalor and mining local snow-covered mountains for yuppie trash, to Allan Massie’s Epiphany, where a journalist is reminded of a faded literary star, in many ways his own alter ego. At what point did these men make a choice about their futures, stop at the beginning of the year as Scott once did, and ponder the meaning of change?

In One Hundred Years Of Wifehood, Kirsty Logan challenges gender rules by pinpointing a frozen moment in the past, 1951; in I Could Feel Them Melting, Mark McNay’s young hitcher experiences the moment he must pull away from his brother and follow his own path; in The Transformation, Allan Radcliffe’s student waiter hears about the moment an old man was convicted in the days when homosexuality was illegal. All these tales adhere to James Joyce’s notion of the short story as epiphany, with moments of crossover and transition, when the past becomes the future and so on. Together, they show a bright way forward for Scottish literature, whatever that is, as well as an acknowledgement of the past.

ImagiNation: Stories Of Scotland’s Future

Edited by Bryan Beattie and Gerry Hassan, Big Sky Press, £9.99

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