Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Haggis-Waggling McKiltism

Oftentimes I ask myself the question: how important to me is my Scottishness? Usually, my knee-jock reaction is to dismiss my nationality as irrelevant to my writing. I dislike contemporary Scottish novels that make a song and dance about their rampant McKiltism with exaggerated dialect or extremely specific place-dropping or characters that are overly Scottish, to the point I want authors to repress their personnel’s Scottishness so they appear more universal and less like haggis-waggling novelties.

I tend to set my fiction in Scotland since I live here, that’s all. Apart from an embarrassing attempt at dialect in the first draft of my latest novel Arlene’s Atoms,  my characters speak plain English (with minimal Scots vocal tics to denote accents) and inhabit Scottish cities. The strongest Scots trait I demonstrate is the impulse to ridicule, esp. ridiculing one’s place of residence if it isn’t in a plush conurb in Burgh or Glasgow. In Arlene’s Atoms, my depiction of Cumbernauld as a small town ruled by ruthless gossips is a satire of the mentality (though Cumbernauld isn’t that small) that little places are horrible, uncultured drug-dumps for workshy illiterates. The place I was raised, Armadale, was touted thus by everyone who stayed there, to my childwide bemusement.

So is place inexplicably linked to identity? Probably. But it shouldn’t consume one’s identity.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. It is however a great topic to discuss. I understand perfectly when you knee-jerk at McKiltism (in as much as I love kilts): Italy is not just pasta, mandolins and sun. I react the same to the Dolmio accent style of representation. And, in as much as a stereotype is such because there are repeated attitudes, behaviours and such, still: national traits are one thing, mockery is something else.

    Am I unarguably Italian? I don't think I can answer that question. I don't think so. I wouldn't want it to consume my identity, though.