HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Busconductor Hines (1984)

by James Kelman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2287119,094 (3.59)35
Living in a no-bedroomed tenement flat, coping with the cold and boredom of busconducting and the bloody-mindedness of Head Office, knowing that emigrating to Australia is only an impossible dream, Robert Hines finds life to be ¿a very perplexing kettle of coconuts¿. The compensations are a wife and child, and a gloriously anarchic imagination. The Busconductor Hines is a brilliantly executed, uncompromising slice of the Glasgow scene, a portrait of working-class life which is unheroic but humane.… (more)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 35 mentions

English (6)  Dutch (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Deliberately heavy in the use of profanities and Glaswegian dialect Mr Kelman wanted to write a book reflecting his own life experience and those in similar circumstances. He succeeded. The mundane life of Busconductor Hines, his wife and young child. Living in sub standard tenement housing i a job he doesn't like, probably capable of better things but he just can't bring himself to be bothered. Worried about his wife leaving him - but he needn't. She doesn't. ( )
  Steve38 | Sep 8, 2022 |
I am really enjoying this book,despite the fact that the story is unravelling very slowly and leaves some unanswered questions. Unil now I find the main charcter deeply likeable and would give him a good hug and a cuppa most of the times. ( )
1 vote Ligeia_Laura12 | Aug 19, 2015 |
Bleak, bitter and wonderfully humane. 1980's Glasgow sounds lovely. ( )
  sometimeunderwater | Aug 6, 2014 |
A surprisingly funny account of life near the bottom of the heap in Glasgow. Written in the eighties, but probably drawing more on Kelman's experience in the seventies for its description of working life in a bus garage.

As everyone says, it's Kelman's language that makes (or, depending on your point of view, breaks) the book: it's a wonderfully lively, bouncy, even lyrical, torrent of words that cleverly captures the flavour of the way working-class people in Glasgow speak without slavishly following the rules of any existing dialect. It's a similar technique to the one Anthony Burgess uses in A clockwork orange, giving Kelman the freedom to indulge in literary flights of fancy when he needs to, whilst avoiding confronting the reader with more strange words than he needs to produce the required degree of alienation. As Burgess demonstrated, the danger is that you get carried away with your own cleverness: Kelman's a bit more restrained, but he does occasionally go over the top, notably with the succession of wilder and wilder images he uses for the bus crews' green uniforms, ending up like pastiche Flann O'Brian.

The story definitely takes second place to the language here, but for what it's worth it's an account of the paradoxical situation Hines finds himself in: to save his job and his marriage and get a decent place to live, Hines knows he needs to advance in life. He's an intelligent man, and is perfectly capable of acting in prudent and reliable ways if he wants to, but he understands that this would be a betrayal of an important part of his life, so he simply can't do it, any more than he can greet (i.e. weep) in public. He needs to stay at a level in life where he has so little that he's free to be irresponsible and jeopardise everything he has. ( )
3 vote thorold | Feb 16, 2011 |
Glasgow is a gritty city. There's grit everywhere, like dirty urban sand. Where the hell does it come from? A sound bet is that the abrasive climate of biting wind, driving rain, hail, snow, sleet and the other character forming elements of Scottish weather is eroding the sandstone, granite and, that particular feature of cities, dirty concrete, the same way that the sea grinds down cliffs, seashells and pebbles to make a beach.

Cities have their own brand of dirt. Out in the countryside mud is the dirt of choice. And cow dung, and of course the inescapable plastic bag stuck in a hedge, but mostly mud. In cities, dirt comes in the form of a patina, layered on top of buildings that were, in a fit of optimism, built out of light-coloured stone. This allows for that particular urban effect of the building being streaked with dirt as the result of rain falling through the layers of pollution stacked up above the city sky like soggy strata before finally hitting the buildings as mostly water, but containing a proportion of whatever pollution is popular that day, and trace elements of pigeon.

Years ago, this pollution was generated by the soot from a million dirty coal fires, which Glaswegians huddled round for warmth during Scottish winters (duration: September to May). In modern times, the coal fire has been replaced by the three bar electric fire. It is important that only two bars of this are ever lit, not because of issues of economy but because of that peculiar Scottish belief that you should never feel too cosy or comfortable. This progress means the pollution from domestic heating has been moved out of the city and is all produced, in truly modern style, by one huge coal fired power plant, with a bloody big chimney belching pollution into the sky, situated in what used to be a pretty Glen.

The architecture is specially designed to collect dirt. The bold Victorian monuments to civic pride in the city centre ideal for collecting pigeon shit, the tenements that Glaswegians inhabit are a graveyard for litter, the grit blown by the breezes or gales of the windy elements of the elements into the tenements, piling up in wee drifts in the stairwells, stairwells painted the unhealthy pinks and green of the municipal pallet that consists of colours never found in private homes or healthy bodies. Municipal green is also the colour of the uniform that the bus conductor, Hines, finds so demeaning, ill fitting and uncomfortable, but which he chooses to wear all the time.

Hines, bus conductor, husband and father (and trying heartbreaking hard to be a good and loving husband and a dependable and doting father, though trying less hard to be a good bus conductor), is not healthy. The source of his physical ills are to be found in his tin of tobacco, from which he incessantly rolls his own fags. Essentially the man is forever smoking one enormous, never-ending cigarette but, out of deference to the laws of physics he has chosen to do this in tens of thousands of instalments of home-rolled ciggies.

The source of his psychological ills are a lack of motivation (ironic for somebody working in transport) and a nagging feeling that he's somehow letting his wife and child down.

Hines is anonymous and unnoticed by the travelling population, but he recognises that he is at the centre of, and star of, his own desperate existence, with the power to redeem or damn himself. Hines is a good example of somebody who knows exactly what's required to improve their lives and the lives of this he loves, but who either won't or can't make the effort for reasons that are sometimes a mystery even to him. He's a frustrating character but a principled one, trying in his own way to be honest and maintain some sort of dignity in what can be challenging circumstances (busses). He is flawed, fallible and acutely human.

This is a cross-section of a man’s life, mundane, desperate and even on one occasion amusing – never has the preparation of that traditional Scottish dish of mince and onions been so lovingly described. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | Jan 22, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Living in a no-bedroomed tenement flat, coping with the cold and boredom of busconducting and the bloody-mindedness of Head Office, knowing that emigrating to Australia is only an impossible dream, Robert Hines finds life to be ¿a very perplexing kettle of coconuts¿. The compensations are a wife and child, and a gloriously anarchic imagination. The Busconductor Hines is a brilliantly executed, uncompromising slice of the Glasgow scene, a portrait of working-class life which is unheroic but humane.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.59)
0.5
1
1.5
2 3
2.5 2
3 10
3.5 2
4 12
4.5 1
5 5

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 206,354,086 books! | Top bar: Always visible