Warner, Alan 1964-
WARNER, Alan 1964-
PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Connel, Argyll, Scotland; son of Frank Warner (hotelier) and Patsy Bowman (hotelier); married; wife's name Hollie. Ethnicity: "Multi-coloured Caucasian." Education: Glawgow University, M.Phil. Politics: "Truth."
ADDRESSES: Agent—David Godwin Associates, 55 Monouth Street, London WC2H 9DG, England.
AWARDS, HONORS: Somerset Maugham award, for Morvern Callar; satire prize for The Sopranos; Encore award for These Demented Lands.
Morvern Callar, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1995, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1997.
These Demented Lands (sequel to Morvern Callar), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1997, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Sopranos, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1998, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 1999.
The Man Who Walks, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2002.
Work represented in anthologies, including Rebel Inc., Children of Albion Rovers, New Scottish Writing, Disco Biscuits, and Ahead of Its Time.
ADAPTATIONS: Morvern Callar was adapted for film by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Oscillator and Outlying Station, both novels.
SIDELIGHTS: Alan Warner joined the new generation of Scottish writers with the publication of his first novel, Morvern Callar, written in the Scottish vernacular and narrated by a woman whose name means "quieter silence." Morvern is a twenty-one-year-old store clerk with no prospects who finds the bloody body of her boyfriend after he commits suicide several days before Christmas. Rather than report the incident, Morvern hides the corpse and tells friends he has gone away. Morvern says little about herself, and her life revolves around which music she will play, including the selection she chooses to listen to as she dismembers her former lover's body.
With the dead man's considerable bank account and royalties from his novel, Morvern travels to Europe to experience the rave culture, but the hedonistic lifestyle and its rituals eventually wear her down. Andrew Biswell wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that the culture that Warner does celebrate is that of Morvern's coastal home town "which Warner populates with an engaging set of characters whose names define the place more tangibly than its vague geography. . . . The dialogue, which is the area where Warner allows his powers of invention to run at their wildest, is governed by a lexis and a rhythm that are unique." Biswell added that "laying bare an anti-culture he apparently considers worthless, Warner nevertheless refuses to present a coherent alternative, perhaps because he sees the novel itself as the antidote to the vacuity of contemporary life."
Liam McIlvanney wrote in the Times Literary Supplement, that These Demented Lands "is a very different novel, darker in tone, more fragmented in structure." Morvern is visiting an island in the Hebrides where her foster mother is buried and where the bizarre people she meets there come together to celebrate the new millennium with a rave at the Drome Hotel. The sleazy honeymoon retreat is run by John Brotherhood, a Svengali-like proprietor who instructs young couples in the fine points of medieval debauchery, pursues his female guests, and may be concealing a wrecked alien aircraft.
McIlvanney noted that "structurally . . . this novel is more complex than its predecessor." Morvern shares the narration with a guest at the hotel, whose comments are revealed through a journal. McIlvanney noted that Morvern's character has also changed and said that "she has sloughed off her early callowness. This Morvern is sophisticated, well read . . . and cooly cynical." McIlvanney felt that although he does not rely on characterization and narration, "instead, we can admire Warner's prodigious powers of invention, his marvelously dynamic prose, and, above all, his brilliant visual imagination." McIlvanney noted that the epigraph makes reference to Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, and wrote that although Warner's story is "avowedly avant-garde," it is rooted in the Scottish tradition. "These Demented Lands," he added, "forms a kind of surreal reprise of the Stevensonian adventure story."
New Statesman's Ra Page remarked that "not surprisingly, much of the book rests on comic absurdities and appropriately modernist images. . . . Writing as if in a post-concussion haze, Warner alerts us to the disorienting newness of honest detail and sets it against our irrational conviction in symbolism. His characterization of Callar is deliberately back-to-front, and instead of tying up strands at the end of the novel, he throws in a handful more. Such is Warner's defiance of the reader's expectations. One suspects he shares his heroine's sardonic closing apology, written in a letter to her much-hated foster father: 'Forgive my elliptical style,' she writes, 'I want you to die in the maximum possible confusion.'"
With The Sopranos, Warner takes a somewhat lighter look at life through the eyes of five seventeen-year-old girls who travel to Edinburgh with their convent school's choir. Temporarily freed from small-town life, they rebel in every way possible—shortening their skirts, binge drinking, and working hard to lose the competition so that they can return to their port town in time for the docking of a sailor-laden submarine. Each of the girls has her own story of poverty, illness, sexuality, or loss, and together they are the victims of age, class, and gender discrimination.
Simon Reynolds reviewed The Sopranos in Washington Post Book World, saying that it "exudes an overpowering feeling of reality. Warner has the sharpest ear for dialogue this side of his compatriot Irvine Welsh. . . . Like Welsh's novels, notably Trainspotting, The Sopranos is rich in both pungent slang . . . and regional dialect . . . which is cleverly deployed so that the reader can work out the meaning from the context."
The Man Who Walks is a mock epic about a homeless man, the Nephew, who is on a quest to find his uncle, who is the man of the title. The uncle is afflicted with a disease that, if he is drinking alcohol, which is most of the time, causes him to lose his balance if he attempts to walk on other than flat ground. After he steals the World Cup kitty from the Mantrap pub, he sets out across the Highlands, taking only the level routes as he goes from pub to pub. As the Odyssey progresses, the Nephew encounters various people and engages in behaviors that involve drugs and drink.
New Statesman contributor Katie Owen wrote that "as usual, in Warner, the absurdist black comedy and the vision of man struggling against physical incapacity echoes Beckett. The social satire has much in common with Swift. . . . Layered into the satire are snippets of Scottish history, as well as ancient myths, which endow the novel with the oblique power of legend. . . . Above all, this muscular, poetic book is suffused with love of the inhospitable Highlands. . . . It's also anarchically funny." Owen concluded by saying that The Man Who Walks "confirms this Scot as one of the most unusual and provocative writers working this side of the Atlantic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 1997, Kevin Grandfield, review of Morvern Callar, p. 1005; March 15, 1998, Joanne Wilkinson, review of These Demented Lands, p. 1203.
Library Journal, February 1, 1997, Doris Lynch, review of Morvern Callar, p. 109; May 15, 1999, David W. Henderson, review of The Sopranos, p. 129.
London Review of Books, July 30, 1998, William Fiennes, review of The Sopranos, p. 34.
New Statesman, April 25, 1997, Ra Page, review of These Demented Lands, p. 54; April 29, 2002, Katie Owen, review of The Man Who Walks, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1997, review of Morvern Callar, p. 76; February 23, 1998, review of These Demented Lands, p. 52; February 22, 1999, review of The Sopranos, p. 64.
Spectator, June 1, 2002, Sam Phipps, review of TheMan Who Walks, p. 35.
Time International, October 28, 2002, Michael Brunton, review of Morvern Callar (film), p. 58.
Times Literary Supplement, March 31, 1995, Andrew Biswell, review of Morvern Callar, p. 22; April 4, 1997, Liam McIlvanney, review of These Demented Lands, p. 23; June 14, 2002, Paul Quinn, review of The Man Who Walks, p. 22.
Washington Post Book World, Simon Reynolds, review of The Sopranos, p. 4.
Barcelona Review Online,http://www.barcelonareview.com/ (September 2, 2003), Graham Thomson, interview with Warner.
Random House Boldtype,http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/ (March 21, 2004), interview with Warner.