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How Late It Was, How Late
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How Late It Was, How Late

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  2,121 ratings  ·  153 reviews
One Sunday morning in Glasgow, shoplifting ex-con Sammy awakens in an alley, wearing another man's shoes and trying to remember his two-day drinking binge. He gets in a scrap with some soldiers and revives in a jail cell, badly beaten and, he slowly discovers, completely blind. And things get worse: his girlfriend disappears, the police question him for a crime they won't ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1994)
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Alan Wilson Not at all, except through the channel of influence trickling down through Joyce / Beckett / Kelman. It is certainly similar to the interior monologue…moreNot at all, except through the channel of influence trickling down through Joyce / Beckett / Kelman. It is certainly similar to the interior monologue style of, say, Molloy, and those commonalities are even more pronounced comparing Patrick Doyle's monologues (A Disaffection) with Molloy's. Ulysses was the events of one day (two days bookending one night actually) but was a voyage across a vast literary planet whereas How Late was over a longer timeframe (a week) but in scope just a blind scrambling ramble around a few blocks of Glasgow. The two works just can't be compared in literary scale, but I loved How Late. I even named my Jack Russell terrier Sammy (the bold Sammy) in honour. Would like to see a debate about the comparative merits of Kelman / Welsh rather than bringing Joyce or Beckett into the argument. What a travesty of justice that one!(less)
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Apr 21, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all ye fekkin bampots
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
If you have never been to Scotland, then literature would have you believe that it is the bleakest, most soul destroying pit of blackened abject despair. The cities are populated with grey-skinned downtrodden gurners whose only options are alcoholism, drugs or suicide. The rivers Clyde, Forth and Tay are not filled with water, nay, they are filled with the salty tears of Rangers Fans, beaten housewives, victims of police violence and neglected children. Did Hadrian build his wall in 122 AD as a ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 22, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2012); Booker Winner
Shelves: 1001-core, booker
A difficult read not because the narration is told via stream-of-consciousness of a 38-year old drunkard and ex-convict but because the language is that of a working-class Scottish dialect that I am not familiar with. I have no problem with difficult reads as I have read and liked the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett but they are written beautifully unlike this book of Kelman whose supposedly humor totally missed my funny bones.

The one that saved this book from getting 1-star rating for m
Waiting rooms. Ye go into this room where ye wait. Hoping’s the same. One of these days the cunts’ll build entire fucking buildings just for that. Official hoping rooms, where ye just go in and hope for whatever the fuck ye feel like hoping for. One on every corner. Course they had them already – boozers. Ye go in to hope and they sell ye a drink to help pass the time. Ye see these cunts sitting there. What’re they there for? They’re hoping. They’re hoping for something. The telly’s rotten. So ...more
Allan MacDonell
"Nay point in hoping for the best," says Glasgow, Scotland's bold and blinded Sammy early on in How Late It Was, How Late. It's hard-won advice, and given with the highest of intentions.

Don't be daunted by the accent. Don't be put off because the entire book takes place inside the mind of a solitary drinking man whose eyesight has been beaten right out of his head—while in police custody.

And where is that formerly loyal girlfriend? Has she scampered, finally, or is she buried somewhere just beyo
Oct 24, 2008 Jen rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone I didn't like
I think this is the worst book I've ever read to completion. First of all, it's a stream of conciousness novel written in working-class Scottish dialect. Secondly, there was no ultimate payoff for my having to struggle through the frustrating narrative style. I want those hours of my life back!
Karlo Mikhail
I was pleasantly surprised to find out how readable the novel is given a considerable number of complaints about its purportedly indecipherable language and use of stream of consciousness as a narrative technique. In fact, the use of the language of the Scottish working classes did not at all hinder the gripping buildup of this dark tale of oppression as experienced by the novel's protagonist, Sammy. He is victimized by police brutality and weighed down by the more grueling instances of day to d ...more
So a few years ago, after I read a blue streak through God of Small Things, Midnight’s Children, Amsterdam, Remains of the Day, Possession, The Blind Assassin – they are all amazing – I decided that I would read every past Booker Prize winner (apparently I am unhappy unless doing something that can eventually crossed off a list.) And although we’ve had some good times – I mean, wow, I would never have thought The English Patient worth reading – my current stance is, Booker Prize, can we talk? La ...more
I started out with 4 stars..I loved the language and the stream of consciousness style of writing, it really intrigued me and I enjoyed reading the story. I was whizzing through it so I guess I have to give Kelman credit for that..

..I couldn't wait to find out what actually happened on the Saturday night, what happened to Helen, I swore he must have killed her in a violent episode and he had become so traumatized he had mentally broken down..or something to that affect. I was desperate to know w
Written in the Glaswegian vernacular, this Booker Prize winning novel follows Sammy in a stream of consciousness first person narration of his chaotic life. Following an alcoholic binge “lost weekend” culminating in a beating, Sammy is left blind. Stumbling around in the shell of his life he tries to piece together the events that led up to his condition, and how to cope with the future in his own way. At times hopeless, sometimes indomitable, he accepts the disability like a man habituated to m ...more
Dec 06, 2008 Scott rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: European book committees
Allright Booker Prize. We're done. You have proven, time and time again, that either you have terrible tastes or I am a total philistine. How late it was is the newest entry into your proud history of Texan timewasters.

Here's what's cool about the book. Scottish working class guy picks a fight with the cops, gets beatdown, goes blind. The parts where he gets out of jail in his hometown and has to find his way back to his apartment is awesome. The part where he deals with government bureaucracy i
Have you ever met a Glaswegian who wasn't complaining? "The weather's shite, sob sob, the sodjers beat me, boo hoo, the gers lost again, wah wah, I've gone blind." I was 35 pages in and I flicked to the back to check how many pages there are because, seriously, how long can you write stream-of-consciousness Scottish dialect about a guy who's gone blind? 380 pages, apparently. But nah it picks up, you get to love the guy, he's adorable.
Kelman is one of the most important prose and narrative stylists of the last 50 years and is maybe the biggest innovator in stream of conscious narrative since Joyce. Highly recommend. Another good one to start with is his short story collection "Busted Scotch."

Apr 01, 2009 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Kelman's best (so far). It's a feckin masterpiece.
HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE. (1994; U.S. Ed. 1995). James Kelman. ****.
I had not heard of either this author or this novel before a firend recommended it to me. Turns out that it was the winner of the Booker Prize in 1994, but never managed to become a notable seller on the book market. There are obvious reasons for this. The novel is written in what is, presumably, lower-class Scottish dialect. At first, I was turned off by it, but eventually it began to flow without my minding it so much. The a
How Late it Was, How Late is the story of a man in Glasgow who's story begins after a massive lost weekend. We're never really sure if it's drink related actual loss, or if Samuels is craftier than he seems and hiding the truth from us. It's a difficult one to rate, as while I really enjoyed reading it, the narrative is so wandering and muddled that it's difficult to get truly gripped. But at this same time, this scrappy style is the real delight of the novel - it's a bit of a mystery to me that ...more
I just read this novel for the second time and enjoyed it a lot. The first Kelman book I read was A Dissafection, back when I was on my year abroad in Odessa in 1995. Upon my return I got How Late it Was, How Late and liked it a little better.

The novel is written in the Glasgow dialect, which is very close to the Ayrshire dialect that I grew up with. It's partly the poetry of that language that really appeals to me. Having studied linguistics and socio-linguistics probably makes the book more ap
Ray Hartley
Written in Glaswegian English and shot through with more profanity than a Gordon Ramsey restaurant inspection, this book tells the story of Sammy, itinerant fence and odd-jober who has done time and seen it all. What makes it brilliant is the fact that Sammy loses his sight after a beating by the police and then has to find his way around Glasgow's social welfare offices and bars while figuring out just how much trouble he is in over a "lost Saturday" spent drinking and doing ... what exactly no ...more
A lot of reviewers focus on the vernacular used to write this, but as a fan of Irvine Welsh it was easy to read.

I first read this when it came out, being virtuous and reading the latest Booker prize winner. I was too young to really grasp any of it, and it felt more like style over substance.

Re-reading it now, it still feels a little like that, but I can appreciate it more, and don't need to have such certainty of story any more. This book will leave you with more questions than answers, but the
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christian Schwoerke
“It’s all a muddle, it is,” to paraphrase the general lament of Thomas Blackpool, Dickens’ hard luck cotton mill worker.

It’s not just that Kelman’s novel is a muddle; it’s that his character and his world is a muddle. This novel of the working class—told in its argot, mostly as interior monologue—is a dispatch from the trenches. It serves both to represent the state of things for a particular class of people in Glasgow and it’s the particular story of one such denizen of the giro class (ie, one
Steve mitchell
An original idea for a story, and interesting way to look into the Scottish life. How Late it Was How Late, reminded me a little of A Clockwork Orange, the strong accent and use of slang keeps the reader on his/her toes.

I sort of disliked the main character which is probably why I didnt rate the book very high, not nearly as high as the critics.
Amy Fladeboe
This is the most intense book I have ever read, but painfully long and sometimes very boring. I didn't care though. It followed the life of a man just turned blind. My experience reading the book paralleled this man's life. Brilliant!
Sissy Van Dyke
WTF? Oh, about 4,000 of them, but like snowflakes, each one is unique.

I felt transported by this book into the life and the mind of one of those guys I look at and ask myself, "What the heck was he thinking?" It not only gave me an insight into the mind of a simple, not-quite-lovable loser, but also into his feelings.

I did not agree with much that the character thought, did, or said, but the book provided a heuristic guide to why he made the choices he made. My final feeling was of compassion f
absolutely vile and horrible but stunning as well. you'll leave this book needing a shower and a bleach bath
Nothing soothes the savage beast like thinking in a Scottish Brogue.
Caused controversy when it won the Booker. The sniffy reviews caused Kelman problems later on when looking for publishing deals. A rare case of winning the Booker closing doors for a writer. It opened doors for other writers though. This is brilliant. To manage the first thirty pages is impressive, to write the entire novel in faultless, poetic, realistic, crude, funny, genuine language is an immense achievement.

What did the gripers want from a novel? Storyline - gripping; characterisation - sup
How Late It Was, How Late is on my Booker Prize collection wish-list and I will buy it one day when I find a nice First Edition, but in the meantime I was quite happy to read the Vintage Classics edition which turned up at my library last week…

The novel is also included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (1996 Edition) where I discovered that the Booker win caused a furore because of the bad language which characterises the voice of Sammy Samuels, the narrator. It is indeed very bad lang
Rick Patterson
Imagine Ulysses--except Molly Bloom's last soliloquy, especially her punctuation-less conclusion, is now channeled through the voice of a Glasgow lout named Sammy Samuels. That's more or less the stream of consciousness style we get here, delivered with the proper Glaswegian brogue, which is about as charming as a kick in the crotch and seems to be as strewn with as much gutterspeak as possible. On one page, opened at random, I counted thirteen f-bombs and a dozen other instances of what were on ...more
Kevin Tole
Probably his best (but I have a penchant for A Disaffection still) and the one that the cognoscenti finally acknowledged Scotland's best contemporary writer by awarding him the Booker that year..... and boy did he use the opportunity to rip into the establishment.

Jimmy Kelman is an honest bloke that lives in Denniston who writes great books about the experience of living in Scotland now, or Scotland very slightly removed back in time - 60s, 70s. His books are full of the internal conversations t
Moses Kilolo
The language in this one is something else all together. I tend to have no issues with foreign dialects. As long as I understand what the f**k is being said. But in the beginning of this book I was a bit worried. Every sentence contained the word fuck, or some other absolutely uncensored speech. We tend to be a bit reserved, as Africans living in Africa, when it comes to this kind of language. But interestingly the book was so easy to read. It is a spellbinding story, at times extremely sensitiv ...more
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Kelman says:

My own background is as normal or abnormal as anyone else's. Born and bred in Govan and Drumchapel, inner city tenement to the housing scheme homeland on the outer reaches of the city. Four brothers, my mother a full time parent, my father in the picture framemaking and gilding trade, trying to operate a one man business and I left school at 15 etc. etc. (...) For one reason or anothe
More about James Kelman...
A Disaffection The Busconductor Hines Not, Not While the Giro and Other Stories Kieron Smith, Boy You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free

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“Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things, just something keeps ye from doing it, why can't ye no do it; the words filling yer head: then the other words; there's something wrong; there's something far far wrong; ye're no a good man, ye're just no a good man. Edging back into awareness, of where ye are: here, slumped in this corner, with these thoughts filling ye. And oh christ his back was sore; stiff, and the head pounding. He shivered and hunched up his shoulders, shut his eyes, rubbed into the corners with his fingertips; seeing all kinds of spots and lights. Where in the name of fuck...” 2 likes
“Funny how ye tell people a story to make a point and ye fail, ye fail, a total disaster. Not only do ye no make yer point it winds up the exact fucking opposite man, the exact fucking opposite. That isnay a misunderstanding it's a total
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