Once describing himself as “a fat, spectacled, balding, increasingly old Glasgow pedestrian,” Alasdair Gray is the master of the understatement, and of stating the obvious but in a beautifully artistic way. He is also a Scottish genius.
Most famous for his classic novel, Lanark, described by The Guardian as “one of the landmarks of 20th-century fiction,” he is also an accomplished artist.
In his latest book, A Life in Pictures, many of Gray’s greatest works are captured to tell the story of his life through the portraits, paintings, posters and murals that meant most to him. And it was through the pages of this book that Gray took the audience inside the RBS Main Tent on the opening day of the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Wearing squint braces and flicking back his gray tousled hair, he entertained us with stories of his eccentric upbringing, often deviating at tangents as he was reminded where an aunt might have kept her tea pot, or when his mother said something particularly funny.
Often self-deprecating but never for long, it was almost like sitting through a slide show at your favourite uncle’s house, allowing him to live the memories that were displayed on the wall in front of us, of golden days long since past. Only this time, the images displayed were created by the man in the room!
Such beauty and such clarity, this book is a must for anyone with Scottish blood or even the merest curiosity as to how great Scotland is when we allow our creative minds to flourish unhindered.