Douglas Stuart is a Scottish-American author. His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, won the Booker Prize. It is published by Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK, and is to be translated into thirty-four languages. He wrote Shuggie Bain over a ten year period and is currently at work on his second novel, to be published in 2022. His short stories, Found Wanting, and The Englishman, were published in The New Yorker magazine. His essay, Poverty, Anxiety, and Gender in Scottish Working-Class Literature was published by Lit Hub. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he has an MA from the Royal College of Art in London and since 2000 he has lived and worked in New York City.
From Shuggie Bain
Agnes Bain pushed her toes into the carpet and leaned out as far as she could into the night air. The damp wind kissed her flushed neck and pushed down inside her dress. It felt like a stranger’s hand, a sign of living, a reminder of life. With a flick she watched her cigarette doubt fall, the glowing embers dancing sixteen floors down on to the dark forecourt. She wanted to show the city this claret velvet dress. She wanted to feel a little envy from strangers, to dance with men who held her proud and close. Mostly she wanted to take a good drink, to live a little.
With a stretch of her calves, she leaned her hipbone on the window frame and let go of the ballast of her toes. Her body tipped down towards the amber city lights, and her cheeks flushed with blood. She reached her arms out to the lights, and for a brief moment she was flying.
No one noticed the flying woman.
She thought about tilting further then, dared herself to do it. How easy it would be to kid herself that she was flying, until it became only falling and she broke herself on the concrete below. The high-rise flat she still shared with her mother and father pressed in against her. Everything in the room behind her felt so small, so low-ceilinged and stifling, payday to Mass day, a life bought on tick, with nothing that ever felt owned outright.
To be thirty-nine and have her husband and her three children, all crammed together in her mammy’s flat, gave her a feeling of failure. Him, her man, who when he shared her bed now seemed to lie on the very edge, made her feel angry with the littered promises of better things. Agnes wanted to put her foot through it all, or to scrape it back like it was spoilt wallpaper. To get her nail under it and rip it all away.
With a bored slouch, Agnes fell back into the stuffy room and felt the safety of her mammy’s carpet below her feet again. The other women hadn’t looked up. Peevishly, she scraped the needle across the record player. She clawed at her hairline and turned the volume up too loud. “Come on, please, just the one wee dance?”
- Douglas Stuart’s website.
- How ‘Shuggie Bain’ author Douglas Stuart ‘wrote without anybody else’s expectations’, Interview. The Los Angeles Times. 7 April 2021.
- “‘Shuggie Bain’ Will Lift You Up — And Tear You Up,” Interview. NPR. 14 November 2020.
- “How ‘Shuggie Bain’ Became This Year’s Breakout Debut.” The New York Times. 23 October 2020.
Reading | October 26, 2021