20 Dec 2014

Parly Road by Ian Todd

Parly Road by Ian Todd
Parly Road by Ian Todd
Tales of gallus from Townhead, with not a little toilet houmour thrown in — that only begins to cover Parly Road by Ian Todd, which is an amusingly told tale of Glasgow boyhood.

Some of it is familiar territory — plucky loons on the streets, up to nae guid, dodging the polis as they amuse themselves amid the dreich backdrop of a depressed Scottish town.

The school in which the boys spend as little of their time as possible is well evoked, as is that restless feeling that young boys have, the need to simply make something happen, those misadventures that seem so important at the time.

Ian Todd's writing has edge however and the story develops with the feel of an epic.  Within many set pieces of prose, he tells the story with elements that will be familiar to many, and tells of the hopes of young kids, and in this case their dream of owning their own dookit.

Everything is seen from the point of view of these wee boys, so the world is impoverished, but not disenchanted. The Townheid of Parly Road is riven by intolerances, but not in the way that a James Kelman or Anne Donovan book may present them, because Parly Road speaks of the highs of childhood, in which everything is a challenge rather than a social injustice.  It's appropriate to say then that the suffocations of poverty play in the background of Parly Road, but that doesn't mean they're not accurately discussed, because they are in hundreds of features.

As for the demotic, this is a huge strength in Parly Road. The writing and hence the speech of the characters is natural and real and makes the book what it is. I was minded of James Kelman who said in an interview in Edinburgh Review 71: “I don’t accept it as swearing at all you see.  If I say ‘look at the sun’, it’s fucking beautiful’, obviously I’m not swearing. I’m doing the exact opposite. So in that sense I object to taking part in a discussion that hinges on the use of swear words in literature.”

This isn’t to be seen as bad language then, but a depiction of repressed speech, actual linguistic freedoms normally constrained by an assumption that just because there is swearing, then the milieu is somehow degraded.  The  tone in Parly Road is consistent and it remains an entirely impressive rendering of a Scots vernacular.  Ian Todd's voice is firm and clear and never slips into pastiche or renders any of the stories he tells as comic — the telling is compassionate where it needs to be and many of the episodes feel like they would make great short stories, not that they should be separated from the whole..

All of this demotic prompted me to activate the TEXT TO SPEECH button on the Kindle and the results defied belief.  The relation of natural language to what are considered socio-political norms were never better expressed by Kindle TEXT TO SPEECH, as you will see from the following video example: