Alasdair Gray Quotes

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  • I take a less gloomy view. A good life means fighting to be human under growing difficulties. A lot of young folk know this and fight very hard, but after a few years life gets easier for them and they think they've become completely human when they've only stopped trying. I stopped trying, but my life was so full of strenuous routines that I wouldn't have noticed had it been not for my disease. My whole professional life was a diseased and grandiose attack on my humanity. It is an achievement to know that I am simply a wounded and dying man. Who can be more regal than a dying man?

  • Imaginatively Glasgow exists as a music hall song and a few bad novels.

    Alasdair Gray, Joy Hendry (1991). “Chapman”
  • Glasgow is still full of churches built in the last century. Half of them have been turned into warehouses.

  • She also said the wicked people needed love as much as good people and were much better at it.

  • Besides, a life without freedom to choose is not worth having.

  • Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he's already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn't been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.

    Alasdair Gray, Joy Hendry (1991). “Chapman”
  • Life becomes a habit. You get up, dress, eat, go tae work, clock in etcetera etcetera automatically, and think about nothing but the pay packet on Friday and the booze-up last Saturday. Life's easy when you're a robot.

  • A good poem is a tautology. It expands one word by adding a number which clarify it, thus making a new word which has never before been spoken. The seedword is always so ordinary that hardly anyone perceives it. Classical odes grow from and or because, romantic lyrics from but and if. Immature verses expand a personal pronoun ad nauseam, the greatest works bring glory to a common verb. Good poems, therefore, are always close to banality, over which, however, they tower like precipices.

    "Unlikely Stories, Mostly". Book by Alasdair Gray, 1983.
  • I don't think anybody should read anything except for fun because you won't learn anything unless you enjoy it.

    "Alasdair Gray: 'I don't hate anybody'" by Mark Brown, August 14, 2014.
  • Are there many people without illness or disability who sit at home in the evening with clenched fists, continually changing the channel of a television set and wishing they had the courage to roll over the parapet of a high bridge? I bet there are millions of us.

  • ...there were certain chapters when I stopped writing, saw the domestic situation I was in and thought, "I don't want to face this world, let's get back to the hellish one I'm imagining.

  • Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

    Alasdair Gray (2010). “Unlikely Stories, Mostly”, p.282, Canongate Books
  • But I do enjoy words—some words for their own sake! Words like river, and dawn, and daylight, and time. These words seem much richer than our experiences of the things they represent—

  • I ought to have more love before I die. I've not had enough.

  • I distrust speech therapy. Words are the language of lies and evasions. Music cannot lie. Music talks to the heart.

    "Lanark: A Life in Four Books". Book by Alasdair Gray, 1981.
  • No, ordinary behaviour. The efficient half eats the less efficient half and grows stronger. War is just a violent way of doing what half the people do calmly in peacetime: using the other half for food, heat, machinery and sexual pleasure. Man is the pie that bakes and eats himself, and the recipe is separation.

  • You suffer from the oldest delusion in politics. You think you can change the world by talking to a leader. Leaders are the effects, not the causes of changes.

  • Movement turns dead dogs into maggots and daisies, and flour butter sugar an egg and a tablespoon of milk into Abernethy biscuits, and spermatozoa and ovaries into fishy little plants growing babyward if we take no care to stop them.

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