Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pure Powell

William Boyd writes on Alasdair Gray's "Lanark"—a great literature and life piece (via Jenny D):

I was working as a kitchen porter in the Tontine hotel in Peebles trying to earn some money to pay for a trip to Munich (where my German girlfriend lived). Not owning a car or a bicycle, I used to hitchhike to and from work. I was quite often given a lift by a young woman who drove a battered Land Rover (she often drove in bare feet, I noticed, a fact that added immeasurably to her unselfconscious, somewhat louche glamour). This was Stephanie Wolfe-Murray, and she lived further up the valley in which my parents' house was situated. In the course of our conversations during the various lifts she gave me, I must have told her about my dreams of becoming a writer. She told me in turn that she had just started up (or was in the process of starting up) a publishing house in Edinburgh, called Canongate. I have never met or seen Stephanie Wolfe-Murray since that summer of 1972 (I did get to Munich, though, in time for the Olympics and the Black September terrorist events), and I'm wholly convinced she has no memories at all of the Tontine hotel's temporary kitchen porter to whom she was giving occasional lifts that summer, but for me it was a strange moment to see "Canongate Publishing" on the title page of Lanark and to realise the unlikely connection - and stranger now to think that Lanark was the book that put Canongate squarely and indelibly on the literary map.

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