Editor, Strathclyde Telegraph
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Do you see yourself primarily as an artist or as a writer?
I see myself as primarily what I'm working on while doing so. Just now I see myself as an English Lit. examinee.
you are a painter as well as a novelist, do you mentally visualize when you write?
Yes, when I'm writing about appearances. When writing dialogue I mentally verbalize.
In Lanark, your index of plagiarisms refers to chapters that remain unwritten. Is the reader to understand this as a signal of hope?
Yes, if the reader finds satisfaction in that. I found satisfaction writing it.
Which painters do you most admire?
Nowadays most of those celebrated as great seem equally admirable. Before the age of fifteen I liked Hieronymus Bosch, William Blake and Edvard Munch most.
Do you think the Nationalists can ever realistically obtain power in Scotland?
No, because when Scotland gets its own government, the Nationalists who wanted that will have to campaign as left or right wingers, as the English do.
I've heard it said that the index of plagiarisms in Lanark can only be fully appreciated by an audience who are educated in literature. Would you agree with this, and if so, does this make Lanark less of a universal novel?
There are many kinds of joke in that index, which is part of the Epilogue, so not essential. And no readers are uneducated in literature - they couldn't read at all if they hadn't been taught.
To what extent is Lanark a successful synthesis of elements from the Scottish literary canon and contemporary urban realities?
Ask the readers. Asking me is like asking an upholsterer, "Does the cloth and stuffing in your armchairs synthesize successfully?" Try sitting on it yourself if you consider buying. Don't ask what the maker thinks of it. Makers are prejudiced.
Glasgow is the best city in the world. Discuss.
Why should I? It's the city I know best and it's mostly a mystery to me.
The autobiographical element in your writing portrays a profoundly disturbed and unstable personality. Would you describe yourself as more stable nowadays?
Yes. I'm fifty-nine and earn a living wage.
Can true art celebrate life?
I cannot answer that question until I know what meanings you attach to "truth", "art", "celebration" and "life". I can't imagine the last without death for instance, or truth without falsehood, or art without artifice.
What do you think about the recent cuts in student grants?
Another step toward increasing the wealth of the British plutocracy.
What is your idea of heaven?
A Scottish co-operative wholesale republic in which nobody owned another person's house, no teacher had a class of more than ten pupils, street cleaners and nurses earned as much as doctors, no firm was allowed to claim advertising expenditure back against taxation, everybody lived by making things their neighbours needed and only the sick were unemployed.
What is the best book every written?
I don't know. I haven't read them all.
Is it possible to write anything truly original in the present age?
I don't know what you mean by "truly" and "original" or when you think the present age started. I imagine it's always hardest to write original work under dictatorships. The British and American plutocracies don't think fiction important enough to censor. My name is on the blacklist of the Economic League but since I never sought employment with a major company this has done me no harm. If my work is not new or truly original blame me, not the present age. I suspect you asked that question in the belief that modernity is a thing of the past. I am old enough to disagree.
What are your most vivid recollections of your days as a student, and what were your thoughts on you very first week?
I put a lot of my most vivid recollections of my days as a student in Books 1 and 2 of Lanark. In my first week at art school I was dismayed at how like it was to my first week at secondary school.
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