I want to tell a joke. It’s got two women from Englandshire, two Yanks of indeterminate gender a Scotsman (maybe dour or mad) and a mad cow (does what it says on the tin.) The joke? You tell me. The serious point is that these five people (yes, even the mad cow is a person really) all read and reviewed my short story collection Voices in Ma Heid. This is the 50th review on the site. Thus I felt it was okay to break with tradition. So today, you get five reviews for the price of one. From ‘real’ people not from our reviewers (yes, I know our reviewers claim to be real people too and most of them can even fool blogger into thinking they aren’t robots!) Is that not enough? Well, how about jokes (?) and commentary in two languages. And a free book. What else could you possibly want?
Ah nivver expectit that response tae ma book. Pure dead magic. Mental. I didnae hink the English or the yanks wid git it. Ah’m used tae the Scots ah ken hinkin’ ah’m no the real deal. Ah’ve been wabbit and scunnered an generally pished aff wi’ ma Scots writin, mair so as it’s the voice in ma heid an yet when ah open ma geg oot cam’s this kinna English kinna hing. Bit fowk wha ken me ken ah’m mair Scots than irn bru n’ Tunnocks caramel wafers pit the gither.
I didn’t think that anyone would want to read these. And if they did I didn’t think they’d either appreciate them or have anything good to say about them. Shows what I know. I’ve not met any of these people by the way. Nor am I related to them (though I wonder if there isn’t a pogo-ing mad cow somewhere in my ancestry!)
But ah’m fair cheered. Ya dancer! (though ah reckon that’s a kinna Glaswegian expression.) Ah’m recognised bilingual at last.
So. Thanks to all the reviewers who gave this a go and told me what they thought. For those of you who haven’t read it and feel inspired, it’s FREE today in celebration of the 50th Indie ebook review. So set yourself a challenge. Download it and learn to read Scots.
Pogo – USA
When I found this book I didn’t know its author, Cally Phillips, but I was curious. Written in Scots? That was a new one for me. I decided to try it. Dialect has long been a fascination for me. Perhaps my Southern heritage has something to do with that. Even so, in all honesty, I didn’t expect much.
I was in for an unexpected surprise.
Reading Scots was not the easiest thing to do. I had to work at it for a few pages. However, it didn’t take long for it to come together and flow. Once beyond that first hurdle it took on a life of its own, and I couldn’t put it down. Growing up awash in a sea of southern dialects, much of it derived from the Scots and Irish who settled in the American South, probably helped. Even so, reading the stories was not like reading anything in proper English. It demanded a kind of settling back and allowing the writer to do the work. I simply drifted through its images, like floating down a river with the current. Lie back and enjoy it, as they say…
The stories themselves are a wonderful mix of extremes. There were times when I wasn’t sure whether to smile or grimace. Even tragedy rendered in the the rich dialects of common folk has a touch of humor. As farfetched as it might seem, there is something to be said for an author who can keep the reader guessing whether what is being said should be taken as humorous or tragic. This is the kind of writing that pulls its reader back for a second read–not for a clearer understanding but simply because one craves to repeat the experience.
Well worth the price…
MadCow “MadCow” (Englandshire)
Full of humanity and humour, sadness and stupidity, warmth and wit. Possibly difficult to read for someone not acquainted with Scots language but well worth the effort.
Brendan Gisby (Embra – that’s Edinburgh to the rest of you)
Brave-hearted!,Cally Phillips is a courageous author. Not only has she been brave enough to write the five stories in this collection in her local tongue, she has also had the audacity to publish the collection, to open it up for scrutiny (and perhaps derision) by the vast worldwide population of Amazon readers.
That tongue – Lowland Scots vernacular – is the one I was brought up with. Sadly, though, after many years of practising a cultured Edinburgh accent, its rough intonations have all but disappeared from my speech. Yet it’s still the tongue I think with; it’s still the voice in ma heid. And that’s why these stories resonate so much with me. It’s why the characters created by Cally – the voices – are so authentic to me.
Would that many more Scots authors had the courage to write like this. Would that many more readers in Scotland and beyond appreciated the writing. Mind you, if you come from that green and pleasant land south of the Watford Gap, dinnae bother; you wouldnae unnerstan’, ken?
Ms. J. Jones “Julia Jones” – (Englandshire again)
I was a little daunted at first by Voices in ma Heid. I was intrigued by the idea – that this is how Cally Phillips hears voices before she translates them into more standard orthography – but would I enjoy grappling with this unfamiliar language? Yes I did. The stories flowed easily, there was scarcely any problem at all with understanding (I was just thrown for a moment by ‘hinks’ for ‘thinks’) and in fact I found the words sounded vivid and musical ‘in ma heid’. These are not cheerful stories but the second story in particular seemed to me outstanding in the gentle, humourous and melancholy way in which love and loss was presented. The modern Guy Fawkes was also wryly funny.
Leila Smith (USA)
Drink for freedom, independence and devolutionThrow one back in the pub with “Me, wee Tam an’ Alasdair” for the glory of Scotland AND drink and smoke your way to Independence and Devolution! Cally Phillips’s short story collection contains two especially good stories, although all were interesting.
“Gunpowder, Treason or What?” has those three lads “makin’ a statement,” “helpin’ the SNP” and “bein’ somebodies.” As might be expected their schemes “gang aft agley,”as Rabbie Burns predicted.
Humorous and sad by turns, it was a great story.
Then,”Jings, crivens, help ma Boab, it’s independence” recalls a series of children’s comics popular in Scotland called “Oor Willie,” and starts with “me, Rab and Andy” sitting on buckets (as did the characters in Oor Willie) talking record albums, politics and Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland. It is an entertaining adventure in political discussion, infused with wisdom and humor.
“Telling Tails” is a tender telling of a tale of friendship between men and love for a dog. Also very good.
I’ll not reveal the other two, so you can discover them on your own.
Here in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where we owe 40% of our population to Irish and Scottish immigrants, the remnants of the southern Scots’ way of speaking still pervades our local dialect. A person can hear “an ‘at” and “all ‘a” and “bit” instead of “but” and “git” instead of “get.” Likewise in the southern states, heavily settled by Irish and Scots, people will recognize the origin of their speech in these stories told in dialect. So, don’t be afraid to try these stories if you live in the U.S. Cally has an excellent ear for dialogue and a wit to match. I highly recommend this little book.
Thanks to all the reviewers. You know who you are.
Find out more about Cally Phillips