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150 6. The Confines of the Human: Shorter Fiction by Michel Faber, Des Dillon, Suhayl Saadi, Ewan Morrison and Scotland Into The New Era The turn of the century has indeed been the symbolic occasion for the publication of many short stories, commissioned or otherwise, by many writers throughout the country. This last chapter aims to examine shorter fiction originating from most of the directions sketched in the preceding chapters, and will analyse stories written by some of the authors appearing in this book. It will address the ‘writing Scotland’ postulate, namely the connection between the national idea and literary output. Indeed, in the wake of the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and in the run up to the new millennium, Waterstone’s, The Herald and the publisher Canongate, for example, launched a literary competition for shorter fiction which resulted in the publication by Canongate of the 2000 volume the title of which, Scotland Into The New Era, provides its theme. In the foreword to the volume the publisher, Jamie Byng, notes the success of the venture, with 1,251 entries for the first edition of the competition, as well as the versatility of the responses to the question of Scotland facing the new millennium. The collection contains stories by Anne Donovan, Janet Paisley, James Robertson and Dilys Rose, as well as by less established writers. This chapter will look at its particular contribution to the creative redefinition of Scotland, in connection with other ‘post-millennial fables’1 or short stories that were published during the first decade of the 2000s, namely those collected in Des Dillon’s They Scream When You Kill Them (2006), Michel Faber’s The Fahrenheit Twins (2005), Ewan Morrison’s The Last Book You Read (2005) and Suhayl Saadi’s The Burning Mirror (2001).2 They take the reader to various locations in Scotland, both urban and rural as in Dillon’s stories, back and forth across the Atlantic in Morrison’s fiction or in ‘Millennium Babe’, Donovan’s story in Scotland Into The New Era, to London, or the North Pole in Faber’s collection, as well as Scotland and the Middle East in Saadi’s stories. Between them, these collections of stories therefore map a world that is not contained within the geographical boundaries of Scotland, 151 while describing a sense of alienation and making a plea for an increased humanity and communality.3 Together, they seem to provide a fictional reaction not to the setting up of the Scottish parliament or to the future of Scotland after devolution, but to a more compelling issue, summed up by the comment voiced by Irvine Welsh, and addressed in different ways in the previous chapters of this book, that ‘We’ve created a world where it’s not a good time to be human’.4 Des Dillon’s story ‘Darwin the Wise Old Space Elephant’, in a manner that borrows from the genre of the parable and therefore links the stories with much more universal ones, stresses the necessity to adjust to our environment and not force the environment to adjust to us, warning that, if we stop adapting, we’ll spell out the extinction of our species. All the stories examined in this chapter in their own way reflect on the changed environment the characters are placed in, and the vital necessity for them to adapt, by altering the parameters of their self-definition in a globalised world. The old and the new, therefore, are considered not as a neat dichotomy, but rather in the complexity of their interaction, as is suggested by the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Glasgow ironically presented in Dillon’s story with an arch-Scottish title, ‘Jock Tamson’s Bus’. As the passengers on a bus going through the Castlemilk area of Glasgow fearfully observe a thuggish-looking man with a scarred face and his wife, the narrator reflects on old and new Glasgow, explaining that ‘[t]heir mother’s Glasgow’s come back. Slums and razor gangs. They said it was gone. The new cosmopolitanism had wiped that out. But the man with the scar’s still talking low and tickling the wane’ (SWKT, 55). This chapter focuses on how the stories, in their own separate ways, work towards a shift from the popular understanding of the term ‘cosmopolitanism ’ as it is being used in this quotation, with its questionable undertones, to a more operative concept which focuses on the characters’ desperate need to connect – rather than to brand or...


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