Sunday, December 13, 2015

My hero: William McIlvanney by Ian Rankin

In his graceful writing, McIlvanney captured the beauty and dignity of ordinary men and women faced with the challenges of life

‘He was a great man as well as a great writer’ … William McIlvanney
‘He was a great man as well as a great writer’ … William McIlvanney. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
In one of many fine obituaries to William McIlvanney this week, journalist Kenny Farquharson reminisced about a meeting with the Scottish author where McIlvanney told him: “We are part animal. Humanity is an aspiration, not a fact of everyday life.” This aspiration is found everywhere in McIlvanney’s fiction, as ordinary men and women (but mainly men) try to achieve grace and dignity despite the challenges thrown at them by life.

McIlvanney, too, sought grace in his writing – not a word is wasted, each sentence measured, poetic and perfect. He was a man of tremendous empathy; everyone he met probably felt they were in the presence of someone who could either understand them or at least wanted to and would strive to. Because of this, he was a great man as well as a great writer. Let loose in the social laboratory of Glasgow, he found beauty in its hard men – as well as measures of respect and even romanticism in their relationships – no matter how outwardly bitter or inwardly doomed.

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