Walter Perrie in conversation with Scottish Writers
Review by Kenny Taylor
A Review by Kenny Taylor
Grace Note Publications (2021) £12.99
Imaging relaxed conversations with people living or dead whose reputation and work you admire can be rewarding, even if you’ve never met them. Tom Bryan explores that idea in relation to some impressive Scottish women, past and present, on Page 26 of this essay. There’s a risk, of course, that your musings will be little more than a projection of your own personality onto the characters you picture, but at least you’ll give some time afterwards, perhaps, to further researching those other lives.
Now consider real, convivial conversations, rendered in print as spoken, with some luminaries of Scottish literature and culture. Poetry, fiction, drama and non-fiction writing, visual art, folklore and song, broadcasting, literary criticism, teaching and editing all fall within their experience over many decades, sometimes with several of these skills combined in one person. Savour the list: Donald Campbell, Duncan Glen, Tessa Ransford, Trevor Royle, William Hershaw, Alasdair Gray, Margaret Bennett and John Herdman.
Several of those folk have now passed away. But in interviews recorded between 2006 and 2020, all of them give fresh glimpses of their artistic motivation at different stages of their lives, share thoughts about works that have influenced or scunnered them, recall incidents that show something of the character of other writers, talk politics, crack jokes. For these are real conversations – sometimes meandering as they divert from main thrusts of questioning, then returning, then moving somewhere else, just as you’d expect if you were sitting and having a chat.
Walter Perrie – himself a man of many parts as a poet, critic, editor, travel writer and publisher (he co-founded Chapman and Fras Publications) – is to be congratulated on bringing these conversations to print, not least in the way that he has rendered them verbatim, whatever the diversions and casual asides, thereby making each have a natural warmth – a sharing. He was assisted in the interviews by John Herdman, also co-founder of Fras, who in turn is interviewed at the close of the book by Richie McCaffery.
With such a kist o’ riches, it would be invidious to select just a few quotes. Suffice to say that this is a volume that repays repeated visits, to read conversations whole or in smaller sections. Its future use as a reference should be significant, as is its current contribution to better understanding some major aspects of Scottish artistic culture and some of the people who have helped to shape it.↑