Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Length: 320 pages
About: Story of true love and scientific daring
Style: 1st person
Where: Scotland (Glasgow)
When: 1880- 1914
One of Alasdair Gray's most brilliant creations, Poor Things is a postmodern revision of Frankenstein that replaces the traditional monster with Bella Baxter--a beautiful young
erotomaniac brought back to life with the brain of an infant. Godwin Baxter's scientific ambition to create the perfect companion is realized when he finds the drowned body of Bella, but his dream is
thwarted by Dr. Archibald McCandless's jealous love for Baxter's creation. The hilarious tale of love and scandal that ensues would be "the whole story" in the hands of a lesser author (which in fact
it is, for this account is actually written by Dr. McCandless). For Gray, though, this is only half the story, after which Bella (a.k.a. Victoria McCandless) has her own say in the matter. Satirizing
the classic Victorian novel, Poor Things is a hilarious political allegory and a thought-provoking duel between the desires of men and the independence of women, from one of Scotland's most
I clenched my teeth and fists to stop them biting and scratching these clever men who want no care for the helpless sick small, who use religions and politics to stay comfortably superior to all
that pain: who make religions and politics, excuses to spread misery with fire and sword and how could I stop all this? I did not know what to do.
Gray's ingenious structuring supports these bundles of opposed ideas with ease and humour, and he gives the book the high Victorian virtue of page- turning, what-next excitement. It is a brilliant
piece of work and, given all the pictures and things, remarkably good value too.
To see full review click here
The Independent, Hugo Barnacle, 12th August 1992
Not so good:
Gray's tireless pursuit of mischief may leave us flagging over the longer distance, but jokes like these - visionary, ornate and outrageous - are its unique local rewards. Poor Things is full of
To see full review click here
The Independent, Mick Ilmah, 30th August 1992
About the author
Alasdair Gray (born 28 December 1934) is a Scottish writer and artist. His most acclaimed work is his first novel, Lanark, published in 1981 and written over a period of almost 30 years. His
father had been wounded in the First World War and worked at the time in a factory, while his mother worked in a shop. During the Second World War, Gray was evacuated to Perthshire and then
Lanarkshire, experiences which he drew on in his later fiction. The family lived on a council estate, and Gray received his education from a combination of state education, (at Whitehill Secondary
School), public libraries, and the BBC: "the kind of education British governments now consider useless, especially for British working class children", as he later commented. He studied at Glasgow
School of Art from 1952 to 1957, and taught there from 1958 to 1962. It was as a student that he first began what would become the novel Lanark.
After his graduation, Gray worked as a scene and portrait painter, as well as an independent artist and writer. His first plays were broadcast on radio and television in 1968. Between 1972 and
1974, he participated in a writing group organised by Philip Hobsbaum, which also included James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Tom Leonard, Aonghas MacNeacail and Jeff Torrington. From 1977 to 1979, he was
Writer in Residence at Glasgow University. In 2001, he became, with Tom Leonard and James Kelman, joint Professor of the Creative Writing programme at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.
Gray illustrates his books himself, and has produced many murals as well as paintings. One of his longest-lasting murals can be seen in the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in the West End of Glasgow,
and more recently in Hillhead Underground station.