Jeff Torrington

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).

Gray writes,

“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.

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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2 Responses to Jeff Torrington

  1. Swing Hammer Swing was a wonderful book, freeform urban existentialism firmly rooted in the (non-)working class. Beautifully written and great fun too.

  2. bagrec says:

    I loved “Swing Hammer Swing” – absolutely fantastic.
    I’m afraid I didn’t get on with the Devil’s Carousel so much – I found the humour a little laboured – although maybe that was the point….
    Sorry to hear he’s gone though.

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