Agnes Owens: The Complete Short Stories

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Agnes Owens: The Complete Short Stories

Agnes Owens: The Complete Short Stories

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One year after her first novel was published in 1984 she contributed eight stories to Lean Tales, a collection co-written with Kelman and Gray. She seems to describe the down and out, and everyday people, the good bad and ugly, in a way that somehow feels part of our own humanity.

Rather than speculate on what may have motivated such statements, what matters is the aesthetic judgement they imply. While Mr Robson, this “parody of a Freud figure” (Pirie-Hunter 71), tries to reduce Betty to the status of object of his ‘hysterical narrative’, Owens makes her voice centre to the narrative ( CN 69-71).Given that her female characters are the focal point of this paper, such a statement deserves some further consideration and contextualisation.

Agnes hoped to follow him there, however, her mother insisted she be ‘educated’ and so she learned to type and take shorthand, but an early marriage to an alcoholic solider saw her mother’s aspirations curtailed. To quote Janice Galloway, “now that Scottish writing [had] a profile it [was] a bloke’s profile” (qtd in Jones 210) although her own works, as well as those of A. The family continued to live as best they could with her sons following their father’s profession and Agnes finding work as a cleaner.

She worked for a while in the house of the comedian who had received her typescript a few years before, and got it back. What impresses Kelman in Owens’s female characters is the relentless energy with which they fight: “It is not that these women are survivors, and many do not survive, but they engage in a struggle that is virtually insurmountable” (Kelman). As for “The Writing Group”, it deals less with the art of fiction than it does with class conflicts and what the young female protagonist gains from this experience is not self-enlightenment or artistic vision but a more material gain in the shape of a wallet she has stolen from the libidinous old man who assaulted her. There have been powerful counter-movements in literature that have challenged previously established canon.

This might lead us to surmise that while she rejects the bourgeois teleological tale of upward social mobility, she is willing to consider other forms of empowerment – such as literature – for her characters. Romanzo corale costituito da una serie di episodi tra loro connessi, l’opera narra le vicende di Mac, muratore ventiduenne che fatica a sbarcare il lunario nella Glasgow degli anni Ottanta. Later, a strange man 7 pushes her and her younger brother into a van as if they were “dogs being taken to the dog pound” ( CSS 372).Although Owens may not quite be said to have entered the canon yet, she is gaining increasing visibility, whether it is through the publication of her collected works by Polygon, the growing critical and academic attention she is receiving, or her being celebrated – alongside Naomi Mitchison and Janet Paisley – during Open the Door 2019 at Glasgow Women’s Library. In “The Hut”, the tabooed female predicament is more specific: the narrator is “never allowed to mention the miscarriage. It actually contains one of the key moments of the novel, which would not be understood in short story form. For a long time, however, Owens has remained “a neglected and marginal figure” (McNeill), “the most unfairly neglected of all living Scottish authors” ( The End of our Tethers 175).

As Alasdair Gray underlines, in the late 60s “Scotland was still beyond ‘the fiction zone’ as far as the rest of Britain was concerned” (Tormans 571) and the 1970s are generally considered as a particularly low point for the publication of Scottish fiction, even though the Scottish poetry of the same period had quite a high British national profile. org/2009/10/honest-povertyand-agnes-owens-at-70/_______, Of Me and Others , Glasgow: Cargo Publishing, 2014. Literary talent predated this political event but it is only in its aftermath that there was a “proliferation of Scottish works on the literary market” ( ibid . This, however, does not imply that rebellion is necessarily successful: the underdog can fight back but biting dogs are often put down. For one of the implications of intersectionality is that in the patriarchal society Owens’s characters inhabit, women are de facto more victimized than men 4 .Never in Owens’s fiction do we find benevolent communities in which her characters can hope to find solace or protection.

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