I’ve been heavily ied up with work, with little time for newspapers this week, and was saddened to find out this morning that Jeff Torrington died last week.
Torrington was a novelist and short story writer, unusual in some respects – even among modern Scottish writers – because he wrote about the world of work. Torrington won the Whitbread for Swing Hammer Swing (beating Alasdair Gray for Poor Things) – a novel of the geat changes in Glasgow in the 1960s as swathes of the city were being demolished - and before Parkinson’s disease finally took hold published the under-appreciated The Devil’s Carousel, a novel set around the tedium of working on the production line in a factory, a carefully built set of intricately related stories mirroring the factory experience (I spent one summer working in a clothing factory, another in a fish factory – Torrington’s evocation of factory life is spot on – I think only Magnus Mills gets near reflecting such life).
Torrington was – most importantly – among the despairing tone of some modern fiction, very funny – his work enjoying the fun of playing with language and dialect, and situations.
It’s a real pity that Torrington’s illness robbed us of more – but I’m thankful that we have two great novels. For obituaries see The Scotsman, a rather fine one in The Independent by the great Gray himself with a lovely addendum by Irvine Welsh, The Times , The Telegraph , and The Herald (by Jim Kelman).
“When asked why so many good writers had emerged from a small part of Scotland he replied, “Gloom.” Which proves his faith in the force of levity. “
And more than one obitiuarist reminds us that Torrington’s work was “plot-less” while reprinting Torrington’s reply that “Plots were for cemetries”.
Torrington’s work gave me great pleasure at a time when I was beginning to develop my literary tastes – both books broadened my reading and broadened my mind. Thank you.