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Dirt Road ❰BOOKS❯ ✬ Dirt Road Author James Kelman – Thomashillier.co.uk After his mother s recent death, sixteen year old Murdo and his father travel from their home in rural Scotland to Alabama to be with his American aunt and migr uncle for a few weeks Stopping at a sma After his mother s recent death, sixteen year old Murdo and his father travel from their home in rural Scotland to Alabama to be with his American aunt and migr uncle for a few weeks Stopping at a small town on their way from the airport, Murdo happens upon a family playing zydeco music and joins them, leaving with a gift of two CDs of southern American songs Ye meet people and they have lives, but ye don t, thinks Murdo, an aspiring musicianWhile at their kind relatives house, the grieving father and son share no words of comfort with each other, Murdo losing himself in music while his reticent and protective dad escapes through books The aunt, the very very best, Murdo calls her, provides whatever solace he receives, until his father comes around in a scene of great emotional releaseAs James Wood has written in The New Yorker, The pleasure, as always in Kelman, is being allowed to inhabit mental meandering and half finished thoughts, digressions and wayward jokes, so that we are present with his characters Dirt Road is a powerful story about the strength of family ties, the consolation of music, and one unforgettable journey from darkness to light.


10 thoughts on “Dirt Road

  1. Jaline Jaline says:

    This novel is brilliantly conceived and written I found the story both absorbing and draining, and I enjoyed both experiences That sounds odd, so I will explain Murdo about to turn seventeen and his Dad, Tom Macarthur, leave Scotland to visit relatives in Alabama, U.S.A for a two week holiday They are both stuck in their bereavement processes and maybe the hope for both is that this holiday will help them get back in touch with themselves and maybe even each other.They change buses in a This novel is brilliantly conceived and written I found the story both absorbing and draining, and I enjoyed both experiences That sounds odd, so I will explain Murdo about to turn seventeen and his Dad, Tom Macarthur, leave Scotland to visit relatives in Alabama, U.S.A for a two week holiday They are both stuck in their bereavement processes and maybe the hope for both is that this holiday will help them get back in touch with themselves and maybe even each other.They change buses in a small town and there is a fairly long wait Murdo decides to go exploring and they miss the bus The bus doesn t leave until 3 p.m they next day, so Murdo goes exploring a bitHe comes upon what appears to be an impromptu music get together in a backyard Murdo plays a few different instruments but his favourite is the accordeon as it is spelled in the novel There is an elder woman playing the instrument in the backyard and Murdo is caught up in the sounds and rhythms of the music The woman notices him and asks if he wants to join in Another accordeon is brought out for him and, like magic, he is whisked away from all his grief, turmoil, and people problems All that surrounds him and flows within him is the music.Thus begins this story of a two week period of time that is life changing in many ways for many people Although told in the third person, we are drawn in very close to Murdo as a great deal of this novel is honed in on his thoughts and, as thoughts do, they wander and free float and stall, then go on to the next thought small birds busy flitting from branch to branch in a flurry of aimless busy ness.This free flow of thoughts and feelings is uncomfortable at times Just like our own thoughts, there are times when they are busy exploring darker corners and other times where our thoughts wing us away into the imagination fantasy or even science fiction And Murdo has a great deal happening in his mind with so many synapses firing at times that he forgets to do certain things he is supposed to or simply gets lost in his mental meanderings.Appropriately, there are no quote marks signifying when people are thinking or speaking, and it adds to the almost dreamy ambience of this story I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the story, and the characters in the novel I could almost hear the music and its rhythms through Murdo s thoughts about it.This is a tender and touching novel of a young man s coming of age during a time of loss and grief in a strange country surrounded by people who care about him and want the best for him, but question many of his choices as he does himself I recommend this most for those who enjoy family sagas especially one that is different and a unique reading experience that is both fascinating and relatable


  2. Angela M Angela M says:

    3.5 stars A Father and son share the loss of wife and mother, daughter and sister yet seemingly bear their grief alone There s a strain in the relationship of 17 year old Murdo and his father Tom and they don t talk very much They set out on a trip from Scotland to visit relatives in Alabama They miss a bus and end up in Mississippi, where Murdo meets a beautiful young girl in a convenience store and connects with her musician grandmother Queen Monzee ay, and we discover his passion for m 3.5 stars A Father and son share the loss of wife and mother, daughter and sister yet seemingly bear their grief alone There s a strain in the relationship of 17 year old Murdo and his father Tom and they don t talk very much They set out on a trip from Scotland to visit relatives in Alabama They miss a bus and end up in Mississippi, where Murdo meets a beautiful young girl in a convenience store and connects with her musician grandmother Queen Monzee ay, and we discover his passion for music and that he plays the accordion Zydeco music, touches something in Murdo that makes him want to play again, which he hasn t since his mother died Murdo seems lost until he connects with these people and sets out on a mission to meet them again at a music festival in Louisiana His father also seems lost, burying himself in books , always reading and appearing to be oblivious to his son s struggling with his grief and attempt to find a place for himself I was moved by the story and loved how Murdo seemed to find healing in his music It s an introspective book , and Kelman allows us to feel Murdo s grief and then the passion he feels for his music and his inner thoughts are wonderfully told We get a glimpse of the south from the eyes of a young man who is new to this country My criticism of the book is that it is just too long and takes way too long for this father and son to understand each other Kelman is a Booker Prize winner and I ll look into some of his other works preferably shorter ones.Thanks to Canongate Books and NetGalley


  3. Paromjit Paromjit says:

    I have loved the work of the under appreciated James Kelman, and I felt no different towards The Dirt Road Those familiar with his work will feel at home with his use of the vernacular, the disregard for grammatical conventions and the stream of consciousness approach that makes us vividly realise Murdo Its appeal revolves around the engaging Murdo and the universal themes of love, loss, grief, and finding your place in the world Murdo s soul driven passion for music lends him the capacity to I have loved the work of the under appreciated James Kelman, and I felt no different towards The Dirt Road Those familiar with his work will feel at home with his use of the vernacular, the disregard for grammatical conventions and the stream of consciousness approach that makes us vividly realise Murdo Its appeal revolves around the engaging Murdo and the universal themes of love, loss, grief, and finding your place in the world Murdo s soul driven passion for music lends him the capacity to see the world and analyse it through the framework of music Kelman s language and iteration aptly mirrors the rhythms of music Of course, the American South is rich in its traditions of differing music styles some of which find themselves showcased in this novel.A lonely 16 year old Murdo and his father are leaving their Scottish Island home for a holiday in Alabama with relatives Both are burdened with grief and loss, Murdo has lost his mother and his older sister, Eilidh There is a clear lack of communication between them, silence is the norm A missed bus due to Murdo getting distracted leads to Murdo meeting and making music with the astonishing black grandmother and musician that is Queen Moonzee ay Murdo plays the accordeon, is enraptured with Zydeco music, has feelings for Sarah and is over the moon to be invited to join them at a musical event in Lafayette, Louisiana Despite the obstacles, Murdo finds his way there, although it is achieved covertly Getting there exposes Murdo to a series of adventures which solidifies his belief in himself His fearful father has to find the inner resources to come to grips with this picture of the gifted musical son in a place and with people he had never associated him with Murdo will brook no alternative to his future other than the one he wants and his dad is terrified of letting him go on the dirt road of music and life The trip gives Murdo the possibility of seeing who he is and what he could be He and his father see each other in a different light amidst relatives and music Murdo is shocked by some of the racist history of the American South and his intense animosity towards the casual racism of Conor gives us an insight into the strength of his feelings He does not identify with the strong Church connections of his relatives and refuses to go despite the pleas of his father He has always felt his sister is always with him giving him strength Music is his religion, nothing else comes close Murdo s rich introspective interior life and music allows him to work things out in a way that works for him It is what lends the picture of Murdo the authenticity that makes you believe in him He is so real and it is music that keeps him safe and sane.The Dirt Road is outstanding in both its simplicity and complexity, a remarkable feat in itself It feels plotless which underlines the quality of Kelman s writing and storytelling He allows Murdo to evolve and cope effortlessly and without manipulation Amidst the background of the American South, a young boy learns to cope with grief, explore his identity, make connections in the new world and learnabout his father He manages to avoid the pitfalls that could have led to a future that was safe but would have been soul destroying for him A book to treasure Thanks to Canongate for giving me an early ARC of the book


  4. Bettie Bettie says:

    BABThttp www.bbc.co.uk programmes b07knqy51 10 Reeling from a family bereavement, young musician Murdo and his father prepare to leave Scotland for a road trip to the Southern States of America.2 10 Murdo s American road trip gets off to the worst possible start as he and his dad find themselves stranded in Allentown, Mississippi3 10 Stranded overnight in Allentown, Mississippi, Murdo stumbles across a rehearsal by a group of Zydeco musicians Read by Finn den Hertog4 10 Afteruncomfo BABThttp www.bbc.co.uk programmes b07knqy51 10 Reeling from a family bereavement, young musician Murdo and his father prepare to leave Scotland for a road trip to the Southern States of America.2 10 Murdo s American road trip gets off to the worst possible start as he and his dad find themselves stranded in Allentown, Mississippi3 10 Stranded overnight in Allentown, Mississippi, Murdo stumbles across a rehearsal by a group of Zydeco musicians Read by Finn den Hertog4 10 Afteruncomfortable bus journeys and an unplanned overnight stay in Allentown, Murdo and his dad5 10 As the days settle into a routine in Alabama, Murdo is beginning to feel trapped at Uncle John and Aunt Maureen s house.6 10 As his family look forward to the Alabama Highland Gathering, Murdo starts to worry about the practicalities of joining Queen Monzee ay for the Lafayette gig.7 10 Murdo is feeling out of place amongst the kilts and Saltires of the Alabama Highland Gathering until the live music session begins.8 10 As excitement mounts for the Tennessee camping trip, will Murdo find the courage to travel to the music festival in Lafayette instead 9 10 Murdo has run away to the festival in Lafayette but after buying the accordion and bus tickets, his savings don t run to somewhere to stay 10 10 Murdo is on stage with Queen Monzee ay and feels at home for the first time since the death of his mum


  5. Phil Phil says:

    The prose is a stream of consciousness uncensored thoughts which splurge from the protagonist s mind, taking the form of a monologue written by a young, aspiring musician who visits America with his father after the death of his mother For me the text was tedious and despite all efforts to finish, I only managed to reach the half way mark I hate giving up on any book but for me I was wasting precious time when the next book, Paul Auster s latest tome is crying out to be read.


  6. K McC K McC says:

    I enjoyed this book so much, it is the slowest I ve ever read a book because I didn t want it to end It s about travel, love, loss, music and a son s relationship with his Dad.


  7. Eric Anderson Eric Anderson says:

    Dirt Road is the first book I ve read by Scottish writer James Kelman It may not be representative of his usual work as I believe he has a reputation for writing novels that invoke Glaswegian patterns of speech which make it difficult for people unfamiliar with this dialect to understand His Booker Prize winning novel How Late It Was, How Late was surrounded by controversy for its frequent use of bad language, but Kelman responded to these objections saying he was honouring and representing Dirt Road is the first book I ve read by Scottish writer James Kelman It may not be representative of his usual work as I believe he has a reputation for writing novels that invoke Glaswegian patterns of speech which make it difficult for people unfamiliar with this dialect to understand His Booker Prize winning novel How Late It Was, How Late was surrounded by controversy for its frequent use of bad language, but Kelman responded to these objections saying he was honouring and representing how working class people in Glasgow actually speak Dirt Road features both Scottish and American Southern dialect because the story is about a US road trip, but it s very readable and easy to understand This emotionally affecting story closely follows the experiences of Scottish teenager Murdo as he and his father visit relatives in Alabama shortly after his mother died of cancer Read my full review of Dirt Road by James Kelman on LonesomeReader


  8. Paul Paul says:

    James Kelman is really on top form here A recently bereaved father and son travel to America to have a break with migr relatives there Viewed from the perspective of the son they both deal with the situation in their own way All the characters, their thoughts and dialogue ring so true that I was laughing and sobbing my way through the book with them With tangential comment on racism, religion, life and death there is so much to think about in this book The idea the son has, that he can be James Kelman is really on top form here A recently bereaved father and son travel to America to have a break with migr relatives there Viewed from the perspective of the son they both deal with the situation in their own way All the characters, their thoughts and dialogue ring so true that I was laughing and sobbing my way through the book with them With tangential comment on racism, religion, life and death there is so much to think about in this book The idea the son has, that he can be creative and work at being a musician is so beyond the ken of his father that, like many things, they cannot talk about it You can imagine Kelman in the shoes of the son As an older man can he now imagine himself in the shoes of the father Fantastic, fantastic book


  9. Neil Neil says:

    A beautiful book It s been a few years since I d read any Kelman, and at first I had my doubts the voice seemed somewhat repetitive and I worried that he was going to stray into full on working class polemic But a little of the way in Murdo stumbles across musicians near a convenience store and the whole novel roars to life It is overlong in places much like Kelman s other Scot in America novel You have to be careful in the land of the free a tougher edit would have made the novels A beautiful book It s been a few years since I d read any Kelman, and at first I had my doubts the voice seemed somewhat repetitive and I worried that he was going to stray into full on working class polemic But a little of the way in Murdo stumbles across musicians near a convenience store and the whole novel roars to life It is overlong in places much like Kelman s other Scot in America novel You have to be careful in the land of the free a tougher edit would have made the novelslick but overall it is a deeply affecting story about a young man coming to terms with grief thanks to his love of music Highly recommended


  10. Bernard O& Bernard O& says:

    The first thing to happen to Murdo, the star of James Kelman s intimate first person narrative, is that he realises that he s gone on holiday without his phone As he and his dad catch the ferry to take them from their Scottish island home, Murdo checks his pockets and discovers that he s left his mobile back at the kitchen This may be Kelman dealing with the contemporary dramatic problem of mobile communication how can you have mystery when characters are constantly calling and texting each o The first thing to happen to Murdo, the star of James Kelman s intimate first person narrative, is that he realises that he s gone on holiday without his phone As he and his dad catch the ferry to take them from their Scottish island home, Murdo checks his pockets and discovers that he s left his mobile back at the kitchen This may be Kelman dealing with the contemporary dramatic problem of mobile communication how can you have mystery when characters are constantly calling and texting each other But it also sets up Murdo as a particular kind of teenager He does have a phone, and he s part of the same world as the other 16 year olds on the island, but he s also not part of that world, not really He s annoyed at himself for forgetting the phone, but if he could bring anything on this holiday, it would be his accordion Murdo and his father, Tom, are on their way to stay with relatives in Alabama for a fortnight, following the death in quick succession of Murdo s sister and mother In their taciturn, Scottish way, these deaths are rarely discussed between the two men, and the missing women only break into Murdo s stream of conciousness when he s angry or depressed Most of Murdo s thoughts are about music and his desire to play This is exacerbated by a chance encounter with a family of Zydeco musicians one of whom is an attractive young girl who like his accordion licks and want him to come play with them at a festival in Louisiana Tom is against this, and against any kind of activity in general, and would rather spend the entire fortnight reading in the garden Dirt Road is, it must be said, something of a masterpiece in first person narration The novel genuinely feels like the transcript of a real teenager s inner monologue, rendered without any literary artifice or writerly tricks He s a strange kid, Murdo, being basically kind, compassionate and decent, appalled at some of the racist chat he overhears, and willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, especially his dad He s not a typical teenager, but he is a real, living teenager, described with photorealistic brilliance Is Murdo s story interesting though Well, that s a whole other question The book I kept finding myself thinking of was David Peace s Red or Dead, a fictionalised account of the life of Bill Shankly Red or Dead is comparable in terms of craft, a magnificent and bewildering tone poem It s also boring as hell But it really is brilliantly crafted But it s also incredibly long And it s boring as hell Dirt Road is not boring as hell, or at least most of it isn t It s arranged in five novella length chapters, and the first and fifth, which harmonise with each other on themes of music and family and travel, are both really engaging The middle, however, is quite a slog As Murdo spends two weeks in a basement in a house in the middle of nowhere in Alabama, wondering if he s going to get to the music festival, I found myself wondering if I d actually make it to the last page I did, and had the same feeling I had at the end of Red or Dead extremely glad to have read it, awed by the craft, and relived that it was finally finished


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