KEVIN MCKENNA’S DIARY: Kevin Bridges has a new take on comedy
WHEN I told friends I was enjoying Kevin Bridges’ first novel, the looks around the table could have toasted the cinnamon on their artisanal lattes. During the holiday season, media like us like to recommend summer reads.
Book conversations in cafes quickly become games of social monopoly. You quickly try to remember this year’s Booker or Whitbread winner and roughly what it was about. The trick is to get your share early. And then you say, “I’m reading Tomb Of Sand: very deep and with a message for the times we live in.”
It doesn’t matter if you only read an online review or avoid mentioning the name of the author, Geetanjali Shree, mainly because you don’t know any of his other works.
All that matters is that Tomb Of Sand is the Booker Prize winner and no one will argue with you because they don’t want to be accused of not knowing who the winner was.
When such conversations occur, I usually take refuge in a cheeky little Hilary Mantel.
A book with bite
KEVIN Bridges’ novel is called The Black Dog, whose main protagonist, Declan, stacks supermarket shelves by day and attends a writing class by night as he clings to his dream of becoming a writer. I found it edgy, dark, funny and insightful…and very keenly observed.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of the smartest comedians in the UK wrote a decent novel. Bridges finds humor in everyday human transactions. Often, he just amplifies incidents and situations, and incidents that had already caused audience hilarity, and then dramatizes them. I’m thinking of the Rangers FC make-up artist here.
I won’t divulge any plot, but very early on he deploys the phrase “drunkenness deficit.” This is when you arrive late for an important session and ways to catch up with your buddies quickly.
In Bridges’ book, this is achieved by buying a quarter bottle of vodka along the way, filling a half-full bottle of coke, and tanning it along the way, a process he calls a “mixology of vodka coke”.
Word of mouth
ANOTHER Scottish working-class writer, meanwhile, continues to thrive. Sophie Gravia found success last year with her novel, A Glasgow Kiss.
The sanitized blurb for A Glasgow Kiss would be something like: “The hilarious adventures of the Glasgow nurse as she navigates the treacherous waters of online dating.” A more accurate tagline might be: “Good, Bad, Ugly: A User’s Guide to Getting Decent Wood in the West of Scotland”.
It was written with wit, a lot of street wisdom and compassion. It introduced me to concepts and practices that made me feel like I had led a sheltered, Trappist existence. And that those ships were now disappearing beyond the stairlift.
Last week at the Corinthian entertainment store on Glasgow’s Ingram Street, Sophie launched What Happens in Dubai, her sequel to A Glasgow Kiss. Unfortunately, but probably fortunately, I had other things to do and couldn’t be there. But a few friends were present and reported.
It was, they both said, ‘Glasgow glamour’, by which I think they meant that every woman – young and old – looked like they had dressed up for the Oscars and that they had all carried it off effortlessly.
Apparently, there were no guys present… except for fit and gorgeous waiters who had neglected to wear anything. I still don’t know if my friends were joking.
And besides, surely there must be a Sunday settlement in Glasgow that deals with this sort of thing.
LONG before the Corinthian, Glasgow’s demimonde enjoyed long, liquid lunches in a small basement trattoria at the top of Buchanan Street called Caprese.
He specialized in stripped-down Italian cooking school “nessuna sciocchezza” under the watchful eye of charismatic, bandana owner Don Costanzo.
Caprese’s unique charm was essential to the fact that three generations of the Don’s family worked there and made their guests and families feel like they were part of them, too. The family were forced out of the restaurant when the city council revealed their plans for a more modern retail sensation to accompany Buchanan Galleries.
They resisted a mandatory buy order for as long as they could before succumbing when members of staff began to experience low-level intimidation in the form of blocked driveways and mysteriously unused trash cans. emptied.
Now, just 23 years after the Buchanan Galleries opened, it will be demolished and replaced by an £825million development combining ‘a mixed-use commercial, residential and office district’.
The existing Buchanan Galleries are a charmless sprawling mess that makes downtown Cumbernauld look like Las Ramblas. They could do worse than invite Don Costanzo and his red bandana back from his current location further west.