Synopses & Reviews
In the superbly crafted and critically acclaimed You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free, James Kelman has created an unforgettable character and a darkly comic portrait of a post-9/11 America.
Jeremiah Brown, a Scottish immigrant in his early thirties, has lived in the United States for twelve years. He has moved as many times, from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again, all in the hope his luck would change. To add to his restlessness and indecision, he now has a nonrefundable ticket to Glasgow--by way of Seattle, Canada, Iceland, and England--to visit his mother. On his last night in the States, Jeremiah finds himself in a town south of Rapid City, moving from bar to bar, attracting and repelling strangers, losing count of the beers he has drunk. All the while he is haunted by memories and by an acute sense of foreboding.
"Booker Prize-winning Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) returns with another exuberant novel steeped in Scottish dialect. Jeremiah Brown, the 32-year-old Scottish narrator, has lived in the United States for more than 12 years, acquiring an ex-girlfriend, a daughter ('the wean' he calls her) and a string of dead-end jobs. The novel is a chatty record of his last night in the country, before he returns to Glasgow (in the country of 'Skallin,' as he calls it) to see his ailing mother. As Jeremiah bar-hops in an unnamed Midwestern town, drinking beer after beer, he reflects on his life as an immigrant ('I read someplace the emigrants werenay the best people, the best people steyed at hame'), his relationship with Yasmin and their daughter, and just about anything else that pops into his head: 'I had naybody to talk to, it was just my ayn fantastic inner dramatics.' The effect is like being captive audience to a drunk, sad, funny, bitter, paranoid but hopeful man who has thus far in his life 'messed things up.' The novel can feel claustrophobic at times, since the reader is trapped in Jeremiah's rambling mind. But Kelman pulls off this literary feat, aided by the undeniable charm and appeal of Jeremiah. The reader becomes easily acclimated to his Scottish vernacular ('I didnay even want to go hame'), which lends the work authenticity and immediacy his voice resonates as he veers from story to story, only interrupting himself to order another beer and take in his surroundings. Kelman's latest will please and reward readers patient enough to pull up a chair and listen. 4-city author tour. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Despite his gambling, his drinking, and his bouts of self-loathing, Brown is a compelling character and well worth your time." Booklist
"It's not just a first-rate drinking novel...about loserdom (loserdom being the song Kelman was born to sing). It may also be the best...book we've had thus far about the political and social reverberations of 9/11 in this country." New York Times
"[T]he novel's narrator...is a quixotic tour guide particularly good at holding up a mirror for us." Portland Oregonian
" Like real drunks in real bars, [the narrator] can't tell a straight story and he doesn't know when to stop. Still he can be funny along the way....[P]erhaps admirers of Kelman's past work...should just plan on savoring only a few pages at a time." Washington Post
"Using a unique blend of stark realism and Orwellian fantasy, Booker Prize-winning author Kelman presents a darkly comic picture of post-9/11 America." Library Journal
PRAISE FOR YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL IN THE LAND OF THE FREE
"Very, very fine . . . It may also be the best-it's certainly the most paranoid-book we've had thus far about the political and social reverberations of 9/11 in this country . . . Deft and moving . . .Very funny."-THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Jeremiah Brown, a Scottish immigrant in his early thirties, has lived in the United States for twelve years. He has moved as many times, from the east coast to the west coast and back again, all in the hope his luck would change. To add to his restlessness and indecision, he now has a nonrefundable ticket to Glasgow to visit his mother for the first time in seven years. The question is, will the visit help him get over the pain of separation from a woman he met and loved in New York and with whom he had a little girl, or will it make it worse? In this rich, funny, superbly crafted novel, Kelman has once again created a memorable character-compulsive, obsessive, self-doubting, beer-loving, and utterly engaging-and a singular portrait of an immigrant's America
About the Author
JAMES KELMAN is the author of a number of novels and collections of short stories, including Busted Scotch; Greyhound for Breakfast; A Disaffection, awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; How Late it Was, How Late, winner of the Booker Prize; and, most recently, You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free. He lives in Glasgow.