Old Men in Love, By Alasdair Gray

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The posthumous papers of a retired Glaswegian schoolmaster and old-fashioned Socialist, John Tunnock, comprise most of Gray's book, which is jacketed with a lengthy quote from Will Self imploring that we should "cherish his works".

So, what is there to cherish in the pages of this peculiar book? There is the exploration of what it means to construct a story at all, as Gray playfully puts together the life of John Tunnock, having ostensibly edited and collated his papers himself.

The papers are a jumble of diary jottings and historical fictions, whose theme Gray sees as being "men in love", and he seeks to connect Tunnock's colourful love life with those of his heroes.

So we begin at three o'clock in the morning, after Tunnock has spent time "tidying away signs of female presence" from his floors, from his living-room to his lavatory.

It is, however, the female presence lingering in his life which creates the most lively sections of the story. Filled with illustrations, marginalia notes and font play – as much as foreplay – the book is also a typographical delight.