When I think of my sorely missed colleague Gavin Wallace I think of the exclamation mark!
Sorry let me say that again.
I think of the exclamation mark.
Gavin was the literary expert with the Scottish Arts Council. That wasn’t his job title but that’s what he was. I, like many before me, had sought his views on my own writing. And as with all those other aspirant scribblers he took the time and care to appraise, consider and critique. His most critical comment was my inappropriate and too frequent use of the exclamation mark. So now, whatever I am writing, Gavin pops up the minute I reach for that character on the keyboard. It’s always a welcome intervention. It brings to mind a man who was generous with his time, his expertise and, ironically I might say, rather free with his own exclamations. He was a most eloquent, passionate and evangelical champion of the Scottish literary world. Every aspect of that world took on a grandeur and significance whenever he spoke. Some may say it was too forgiving, uncritical. I would say let’s err on that side of generosity of spirit. It’s the positive counterpoint to the Scottish cringe, an antidote to the increasing prevalence of the Scottish whinge. Gavin suffered at its emotionally parsimonious hand himself in the occasionally disputatious world of our literary community. Some commentators invoked a tone that added little to the quality of discussion and did a lot to personalise and sometimes hurt.
It never ceases to amaze me that in some aspects of public life, the arts included, that people get away with insult and injury that would be entirely unacceptable anywhere else. If I had spoken to my workmates on the building sites of Lerwick in the way that some have spoken to me in the course of being an arts administrator I would have been chewing on a length of 2 by 2. I am not condoning corporal punishment for intemperate tone and critique. But I am urging a more thoughtful and, yes, forgiving approach to our civic discourse. There are many arguments to be had before we settle on our future as a country. Let’s make sure we are able to still talk to each other when that moment comes.
Other Blogs from Jim
No 1 Welcome_to_the_Saltire_Society_-_From_MacDiarmid_to_Kelman.pdf