Alasdair Gray, the man and the work

Glass, Rodge (2020) Alasdair Gray, the man and the work. The Paris Review. (

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One night in summer 2015, under a vast night sky mural in the Òran Mór Arts Centre auditorium in Glasgow, there was a film showing. In fact, two. The subject of both, Alasdair Gray, once an intense, asthmatic working-class boy from northeast Glasgow and now Scotland's most celebrated literary artist, was in the audience, fidgeting and scratching as he watched. Above us, I could see his Garden of Eden mural writ large on the ceiling, despite the low light. I was also scratching myself—seeing Alasdair do it always made my eczema worse. I was waiting for the right moment to ask him to sign a picture for my baby daughter. He was eighty, at the time. I was afraid I might not see him again; I was living in England. Now, in the weeks after his death, days after I've moved back to Glasgow again, I wonder how to make sense of his loss. Our conversation that night, conducted while watching the pop-up screen, made me re-engage with his work in a new way. And it gives me something to do now he's gone.