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1 1. Millennium Babes: Female Urban Voices after James Kelman and Irvine Welsh: Laura Hird, Anne Donovan, Zoë Strachan and Alison Miller With the coming to prominence of two great voices in the 1990s, Janice Galloway and A. L. Kennedy, the all-male focus in Scottish writing, or at least the male domination over fiction-writing since the 1970s which, though not absolute, was very hegemonic, came to an end.1 Two major critical works published in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gifford and McMillan’s A History of Scottish Women’s Writing (1997) and Christianson and Lumsden’s Contemporary Scottish Women Writers (2000), noted the advent of a new diversity for Scottish writing, and although Christianson and Lumsden deal in their introduction with the difficulties inherent in trying to interpret a work of art according to the gender of its author (all the more so as the authors themselves resist being classified either in terms of their gender or, for that matter, their nationality), they identify and describe the creation of a new voice for women in the last two decades, the voice of writers who ‘interrogate the “space” of Scotland in their own way’.2 While Gifford (1997: 609) warns that ‘the real concerns and the real voices of contemporary women should genuinely be heard in Scottish society, and not just paid condescending lip service’, Kirstin Innes even more pointedly insists on the stumbling-block represented by an all-male literary tradition, in a way that refuses qualification and nuances: The much fêted new visibility of Scottish culture, which coincides with the working-class male’s literary enfranchisement, appears to be won at the expense of women, gay men and ethnic minorities whose voices are silenced by the new literature’s blatant misogyny, homophobia and racism.3 Innes goes on to contend that female experience in Scotland is dislocated by a national language which is both male and androcentric, an issue which is certainly tackled by both Kennedy and Galloway in their novels Looking for the Possible Dance (1993) and The Trick Is to Keep Breathing (1989). This 2 the space of fiction chapter focuses on a generation of women writers in Scotland whose books were published at the turn of the millennium, in the wake of Galloway and Kennedy, while also being linked to the urban fiction of Welsh and Kelman, with its particular concentration on the urban working-class or underclass and their specific idiom. Donovan, Hird, Strachan and even more recently Alison Miller can all claim the ambiguous epithet of ‘Renton’s bairns’ bestowed on them (and on other writers such as, notably, Suhayl Saadi) by Innes. Of Renton’s bairns, none can claim kinship with Welsh as much as Hird who was first associated with him, Duncan McLean, Gordon Legge and James Meek in Kevin Williamson’s project Children of Albion Rovers in 1996, succeeded by the mockingly threatening Rovers Return in 1998.4 Hird’s first novel’s title, Born Free (1999), reads like a statement of purpose, as well as an affirmation of liberation from the constraints commented upon by her predecessors, for an author who does not feel as if her gender or any other aspect of herself might have stood in the way of publication. The novel itself, a domestic comedy of a dark and bitter kind, like Hird’s shorter fiction published in Hope and other Urban Tales (2006), presents the reader with a voice which, as in Donovan’s and Miller’s fiction, makes great use of the vernacular, and with a focus upon the lower classes of society, in the case of Hird’s ‘Welshian novel’,the upper levels of the working classes.5 Like Welsh in Glue, she shifts points of views in her alternate chapters, but unlike Welsh, who almost exclusively uses male focalisers and narrators, she presents the reader with the points of view of all family members, male and female, as do Donovan in Buddha Da – though in a more sympathetic way – and Alison Miller, who uses two female narrators in Demo (2005). All these voices, together with those of Strachan’s female protagonists in Spin Cycle (2004) and Negative Space (2002), because they articulate a depiction of space dependent on the treatment of voice, both vernacular and narrative voice, and share Kelman’s preoccupation with the representation of the working classes, can be described not only as demotic voices, but, to borrow Jeremy Scott’s concept, as ‘immanent voices’, namely...


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