Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers

Alasdair Gray  - published June 2010

June 8, 2010:
9781931520690 · Trade cloth · 6 x 9 · 312 pp

Beautifully designed by the author and printed in two colors: you have to handle this book to believe how beautiful it is. See the title page and first couple of chapters here.

Small Beer Press are delighted to publish the first US edition (updated with the author’s corrections from the UK edition) of Alasdair Gray’s latest novel, Old Men in Love: John Tunnock’s Posthumous Papers, a unique melding of humor and metafiction that at once hearkens back to Laurence Sterne yet sits beside today’s literary mash-ups with equal comfort. Old Men in Love is smart, down-to-earth, funny, bawdy, politically inspired, dark, multi-layered, and filled with the kind of intertextual play that Gray delights in.

As with Gray’s previous novel Poor Things, several partial narratives are presented together. Here the conceit is that they were all discovered in the papers of the late John Tunnock, a retired Glasgow teacher who started a number of novels in settings as varied as Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, Victorian Somerset, and Britain under New Labour. Fifty percent is fact and the rest is possible, but it must be read to be believed.

Old Men in Love on Omnivoracious: First, Jeff VanderMeer interviews Alasdair Gray, then Will Self’s Appreciation from the dustjacket, and finally an excerpt from the Introduction by Lady Sara Sim-Jaeger.

Also: a wonderful recent interview with Alasdair Gray by Ari Messer on The Rumpus.


“God bless visionary eccentrics. . . . In today’s case, I am lavishing thanks not only for the existence of Alasdair Gray, our present-day reigning literary eccentric, but also for his marvelous invention, John Tunnock:  crabby and crabbed, quintessentially Scottish misanthrope, unsung and deceased novelist, surname-sharer with a teacake, “hero,” if I may be so bold, of Old Men in Love.”
—Paul Di Filippo, Barnes and Noble Review

“Like the best of Gray’s work, Old Men in Love is funny and profane, but with a shuddering anger to the politics. Despite its swinging widely through time and space to portray men in power, their vulnerabilities and the perils of unchecked desire, perhaps the novel’s best section is its most mundane and personal: Gray’s portrayal of John Tunnock as a young boy trying to find his (lonely) place in working-class Glasgow. With a dead mother and a father he never knew, he’s left to two plucky maiden aunts. His coming of age includes sherry, comic book superheroines in very tight costumes, his discovery of pornography and being discovered with pornography by his schoolmaster. He was even watching Only Uncensored Anime Porn Allowed.

About the AuthorGerry Donaghy, Powells.com“What makes reading Alasdair Gray worthwhile is that, though he may not always be a successful literary stylist, he repeatedly manages to articulate our innate need to be creative and the despair that comes with the inability to successfully express ourselves. He also reminds us that often our ideals exceed our actions and abilities. More than once, he’s introduced his novels with the exhortation, “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation,” and it’s this optimism, in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds, that keeps me coming back to this author.””
—Jessa Crispin, NPR (Read a short excerpt on NPR)

Alasdair Gray, born 1934, is a painter certificated by Glasgow Art School. Unable to live by one art he became jack of several and Old Men in Love is his 19th book. In The Dublin Independent Lawrence Sterne says it will swim down the gutter of time with the legation of Moses and A Tale of A Tub. Says Urquhart of Cromarty in The Scots Magazine, Relish the cheese-like brain that feeds you with these trifling jollities. Dr Samuel Johnson in The Rambler writes, Never has penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment been so happily disguised. Sidney Workman in the Epilogue says This book should not be read. In this blurb Alasdair Gray writes, Old Men in Love is bound to sell well because everyone now feels old after 25 so all youngsters are interested in what comes next.

Reactions to the British edition:

“Beautiful, inventive, ambitious and nuts.”—The Times (London)

“The culmination of a lifetime spent honing his unique ideas and approach.”
New Statesman

“That very rare bird among contemporary British writers—a genuine experimentalist. The influence of James Joyce, and Lauren Sterne, is very evident, but Gray does not seem merely derivative from these masters. He is very much his own man.”
—David Lodge

“This is one of Alasdair Gray’s best novels. (…) A preoccupation with the true meaning of democratic accountability is one of several themes uniting these linked stories. Freedom, including artistic freedom, is at the core of Old Men in Love. Gray is sly and witty, but also, and more impressively, he writes with stylish honesty. Presented as a schoolteacher’s book, Old Men in Love has a didactic tone at times, but gets away with it. (…) Postmodern it may be, but this is clearly a work by a lover of Dickens, Scott, James Hogg and John Galt. Its rewardingly readable narratives owe as much to the narrative quirkiness of the great age of 19th-century fiction as to today’s tricksiness. Old Men in Love shows Gray’s old strengths confidently renascent.”
—Robert Crawford, The Independent

“Waywardness is central to this novel’s artistic vision; waywardness, rather than rebellion in the Romantic style. (…) Once again, in this ingenious, engaging novel, Alasdair Gray has struck a blow for an altogether more meaningful sort of freedom.”
—Michael Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Gray, Alasdair.
Old men in love : John Tunnock’s posthumous papers / introduced by Lady Sara Sim-Jaeger ; edited, decorated by Alasdair Gray. — 1st U.S. ed.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-931520-69-0 (alk. paper)
I. Title.
PR6057.R3264O43 2010