The best Scottish books about moments of madness

Scotland’s greatest poet since Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid, said that there were no traditions in writing, only precedents. He was thinking that, were traditions followed, adhered to, applauded, and praised, and prized too highly, then the danger of slavish repetition rather than creative divergence was too high. We need the mad moments, when all bets are off and something truly unpredictable will happen. I write with Scots modernist, postmodernist, and experimental precedents in mind. I want there to be Scots literature that reflects a divergent, creative nation, willing to experiment with words and life, and, in Alasdair Gray’s formulation, “work as though in the early days of a better nation.”

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Books from Scotland

‘Sometimes I wonder if I had known that it was going to take me fourteen years to paint this painting of the Crucifixion, and what it would take for me to paint it.’

In Iain Hood’s This Good Book, Susan Alison MacLeod first lays eyes on Douglas MacDougall at a party in 1988, resolving to put him on the cross in the Crucifixion painting she’s been sketching out. Her desire for authenticity means the painting doesn’t see light for 14 years; meanwhile, Douglas’ ever-more elaborately designed urine-filled plastic bags bring him more fame and accolades. A novel that spins the moral compass while playing with notions of the creation of art, you can read some below.

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Books and Me: This Good Book by Iain Hood

This is a more than a good book! This is a very good book! And so unique! I wondered how I’d get on with the Scottish dialect and slang, alongside a look at the art world, but it works surprisingly well and it’s one of those stories that can shock just as much as make you laugh! And it made me laugh a lot with the darkness and pointed look at the pretentiousness of what is perceived as art nowadays.

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The Bobsphere: This Good Book

A topic in fiction that has always fascinated me is art. It seems to me that there is a meta quality to it and it gives a novel a certain depth. Of course this can apply to other topics but I’ll give some examples of the other worldliness. Take, Ali Smith and Siri Hustvedt in How to Be Both and The Blazing World: both used art to challenge notions of gender. In Özgür Uyanik’s Conception art is seen as an extreme act. On a popular level Hannah Rothschild’s The Improbability of Love looks towards art as social satire.

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Janet Emson: Q&A With Iain Hood

Iain  Hood’s novel, This Good Book, was published by Renard Press on 16 September 2021.

Iain kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about This Good Book.

This Good Book is the story of two artists’ careers. Susan Alison is a figurative painter and Douglas is a conceptual installation artist. Over fourteen years, Susan Alison also has Douglas model the figure of Christ in a Crucifixion painting she makes many attempts at, all of which she feels fail. Meanwhile, Douglas becomes a hugely successful, wealthy and prize-winning conceptual artist. Centrally, the book is about the price both Douglas and Susan Alison are willing to pay to succeed in creating good art. Good not to be confused with satisfying or lucrative or lauded or prized.

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Staying in with Iain Hood

Staying in with Iain Hood

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Iain. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thanks for inviting me! A pleasure. I love staying in. My wife and I, who had our kid later in life, joke that we had her just so we had an excuse to stay in, because actually we were sick of going out.

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Whispering Stories: The Writing Life of Iain Hood

Iain Hood

This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Iain Hood, who will be sharing with us details of his writing life, telling us all about his book This Good Book, which was released on 16th September 2021, and answering a few fun questions.

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INTERVIEW: Iain Hood on heresy, Oscar Wilde and ‘This Good Book’

As part of my interview series Writers on Research, I spoke to author Iain Hood on the research process behind his novel This Good Book (Renard Press, 2021).

I feel as though there are two main philosophical themes running together through This Good Book – theology and aesthetics. Theological readings of art and aesthetic readings of theology are intertwined throughout, with ideas of ‘meaning’ providing the adhesive. To begin our interview, I’m curious as to which of these motifs – theology or aesthetics – first brought you into the idea for This Good Book. Is this a theological novel about art, or an artistic novel about theology? Or both, or neither?

As your interest, Joe, is writers and research, I felt I needed to do a wee bit of digging into my own recent ‘archive’ to see how it all started…

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