Shades of Gray

From a distance, the life of the brilliantly subversive Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Gray has often seemed one of chaos and dissipation. Things don't look much better up close in Rodge Glass' Alasdair Gray: A Secretary's Biography, which variously paints him as garrulous, self-centered and a "bloody devious old bastard" to boot. That's probably not the picture Gray had in mind when he agreed to let Glass, his factotum and former student, be his biographer and shouted, "Be my Boswell ... Tell the world of my genius."

The result is a strange but nourishing stew of interviews,...

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