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Durational Realism? Voice over Narrative in James Kelman's An Old Pud near the Angel, and Other Stories Terence Patrick Murphy We might still want to argue mat there are relative similarities of reading time, for fluent native speakers, for particular types of text. The application of such posited norms of reading duration , against which one would then compare the likely temporal duration of the events etc., that the text relates, are pretty much limited to scenic passages reporting monologues, dialogues, sequences of physical actions which are punctual or of short duration , and short journeys. —Michael Toolan, Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction Finally, we might even follow Jean-Paul Sartre and object, in the name of "durational realism," to all evidences of the author 's meddling with the natural sequence, proportion, or duration of events. Earlier authors, Sartre says, tried to justify the "foolish business of storytelling by ceaselessly bringing to the reader's attention, explicitly or by allusion, the existence of the author." The existential novels, in contrast, will be "toboggans, forgotten, unnoticed," hurtling the reader "into the midst of a universe where there are no witnesses." Novels should "exist in the manner of things, of plants, of events, and not at first like products of man." If this is so, the author must never summaJNT : Journal of Narrative Theory 33.3 (Fall 2003): 335-356. Copyright © 2003 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 336 JNT rize, never curtail a conversation, never telescope the events of three days into a paragraph. "IfI pack six months into a single page, the reader jumps out of the book." —Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Fiction1 Introduction Beginning with the publication of his first collection of short stories, An Old Pub Near The Angel, And Other Stories (1973), a central aim of James Kelman's writing has been to break with the dominant conventions of novelistic fiction. For the Scottish writer, the attempt to do this has involved disrupting the distinction between dialogue and narrative. In a talk with students at the Glasgow School of Art in November 1996, Kelman commented: "In prose fiction I saw the distinction between dialogue and narrative as a summation of the political system; it was simply another method of exclusion, of marginalizing and disenfranchising different peoples , cultures and communities. I was uncomfortable with 'working class' authors who allowed 'the voice' of higher authority to control narrative, the place where the psychological drama occurred" ("Judges 40" 20). As a young writer, Kelman was strongly aware of the lack of literary models available to him. With his first collection of stories all but complete, it was this strategic absence of models from his own culture that loomed large. Indeed, at the time, his impression was that "there were no literary models I could look to from my own culture. There was nothing whatsoever" ("Glasgow" 82). Kelman's perception of the absence of working models meant that it was in the work of a "few American writers [and in] foreign language literature through translation" that he discovered his freedom as a writer, "the freedom other writers seemed to take for granted, the freedom to write from their own experience" ("Glasgow" 83). Eventually, the encounter with this literature enabled him to begin to "create stories based on things I knew about; snooker halls and betting shops and pubs and DHSS offices and waiting in the queue at the Council Housing office; I could write stories about my friends and relations and neighbors and family and whatever I wanted" ("Glasgow" 83). The actual process of composing these first stories, however, brought Kelman up against another, and largely unexpected, problem: attempting to write out of his own expe- Durational Realism? 337 rience brought him up against the reality of censorship and suppression. This problem emerged as one in which received critical wisdom was pitted against his felt need to use the speech forms necessary to describe his working class experience: You can't write a short story without language. That seems an odd statement. Yet received wisdom in this society demands it. Yes, they say, go and write whatever story you want, but don't use whatever language is necessary, [. . .] Go and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 335-356
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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