March 16, 2012

San Stefano

I started reading this book under the assumption it was going to be a straight’ biography of George Mackay Brown, not realising that, while it has biographical elements, it is essentially the story of GMBs spiritual journey. I have read many of GMBs novels and short stories (the poetry, less so) over the years and always found him a mesmerising writer, able to tap into folklore and tradition.

While I’m not a Christian, I come from a catholic family and my brother is actually a catholic priest. Despite my own lack of belief (like the quote from Julian Barnes in the book, I don’t believe in God but I do miss him) I found this book to be fascinating and was gripped by Ferguson’s writing from beginning to end. The book is written in a conversational and collaborative style with much of the content the result of interviews with other artists and individuals from faith groups.

This is an affectionate portrait of George Mackay Brown’s journey from a protestant upbringing to a somewhat idealised Catholic faith. Ferguson doesn’t avoid the darker sides of GMB — a sponger, prone to depression and alcohol abuse — and this is a very rounded portrait of the poet. A fascinating book about a great Scottish writer.


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