Kirsty Neary was born in 1986, and grew up in and around Glasgow. Whilst pursuing her studies at the University of Glasgow, Kirsty also writes, paints, makes films, takes photographs and performs her various works at events across Scotland such as Words Per Minute, Initial Itch, Forge of the Wordsmiths and the Wigtown Book Festival. As well as reading her own work, Kirsty has also been called upon to present talks on the craft of writing, and the industry itself, at writer’s networking events and discussion groups. The Stately Pantheon is her first novel. Her short fictions are featured in magazines such as dotdotdash and Spilling Ink Review, for which she has also won prizes. She has recently graduated with a First Class degree in English Literature an Film & Television Studies, writes freelance journalism for Glasgow newspapers, and is looking forward to the release of her second novel, Abstract/Concrete, inspired and informed by that notorious city. She would get a lot more done if her cat didn’t insist on sitting on the keyboard.
“Clever and intense, Kirsty Neary’s novel depicts superbly both personal and social alienation.” ~ Lesley McDowell, literary journalist and author of Between the Sheets
“…enchanting. Well worth a look.” ~ The Skinny
“I was frequently dazzled … lushly textured, with each page bearing an exquisitely crafted turn of phrase.” ~ Christopher Brookmyre, author of Boiling a Frog, Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks and Pandaemonium
“Kirsty Neary has given us a stark and eloquent warning… She writes with precision and dexterity, always seeking that higher voice, where real truth lies. She is to be commended for her ambition in these shallow times…a writer who promises much for the future.” ~ Andrew Raymond Drennan, author of The Immaculate Heart and Cancer Party
“Genuinely creepy…a solidly unusual novel. Kirsty Neary is definitely one to watch.” ~ Sean McCann, Light Up Glasgow’s Skyline
No argument. No arts. No original thought. No rogue ideologies. You know the rules. This is all for your own good. The Management have spoken.
It is Glasgow. It is 2024. Things are very different, now.
Slipping between the cracks in Glasgow’s epidemic apathy, dangerously reasonable government body The Management have taken over without a tremor of protest. Thinly veiling their regime as the restoration of Order and Decency, citizens must submit to ever-harsher rules and restrictions. Soon, books, records and paintings fuel dustbin fires across the city. Buildings crumble. Traffic halts. People vanish without explanation. And no-one dares go looking. Tattered banners scream a reminder. ALL FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.
This city has been misbehaving for far too long.
Lucy remembers it well. Or thinks she does…
See below an exclusive look at the Afterword.
The Stately Pantheon
Somewhere between the murk of Glasgow’s dens of iniquity and the polished drudge of suburbia lies the Pantheon Theatre. Here, the mysterious Polly keeps the keys to panacea. Here, dashed hopes and creeping fears effervesce, carried away with the roars of the crowd and the help of her designer pharmaceuticals. Here, lives are lost, and lives are remade to order.
Polly’s clientele are all seeking escape: from boredom, from misery, from guilt, above all, from themselves. She can offer a nepenthe, she can chase away sorrow, but she extracts a terrible price. Her customers may be on the brink, but the show must go on.
I wrote Abstract/Concrete between Autumn 2009 and Spring 2010 whilst resuming university studies after a couple years’ absence. The summer before term began, I’d been bored enough to begin to take notice of warring factions in the media with regard to what was and was not appropriate behaviour: it seemed like everyone had an opinion on what constituted acceptable levels of permission to drink, smoke, eat, spend or behave however they wanted. For every advertisement or celebrity promotion, there was a health warning’s or so-called expert’s damnation, and this seemed to be extending into every decision the average person had to make day-to-day. I realised I was living in a society afraid to choose for itself, for fear of some error calculated on some unfathomable scale of correctness, image, arbitrary morality.
The terms ‘police state’ and ‘totalitarianism’ began to ring in my head; only, it relied less on brutality (at least not at first) than on coercion, on an apathetic populace easily herded into line for the want of a quiet life. It’s easier, after all, to do what you’re told than to have to expend energy on weighing up costs, benefits and consequences, especially when the dictators are that nice bloke off the telly recommending Sainsbury’s; and the bad examples are once-pretty, now cocaine-ravaged soap stars falling out of nightclubs drunk and sans underwear.
Another factor in the portrait of Glasgow’s urban decay was the financial crisis still raging in Britain. It’s an odd situation: we’re being advised by one set of ‘experts’ to cut back, and by another, flashier troupe, to spend, spend, spend on things we don’t need and can’t afford anyway, leaving the average citizen bitter with want. Our culture of consumption made promises the economy couldn’t keep, even as branding, advertising and ‘free’ credit diverted attention from that fundamental error still inherent in our forward-thinking, democratic society: the rich and powerful continuing to flourish whilst the poor and voiceless are submerged. This model forms the basis of the struggle in Abstract/Concrete, but little did I know how much scarier things were to become for our country following last May’s election.
As a freshman back in 2004, I began an MA in Film & Television Studies with English Literature. Back then, the upshot of gaining this qualification had a multitude of options for employment after graduation: writing, researching, lecturing, teaching, publishing, journalism, working in television or film, curating, librarianship … I could go on, but the point is, that was seven years ago. When the coalition government came to an agreement which effectively stabbed the whole country (bar the wealthy, powerful, connected and obscenely well-protected percentage whose interests would always, it seems, be met), the words that set everyone trembling were ‘reforms’ and ‘cuts’. Something had to give to heal our ailing economy, and that something mirrored the issues explored in Abstract/Concrete: the deletion of the Arts from the agenda as unnecessary padding. Organisations were shut down or absorbed into ‘portfolio’-driven umbrella companies. Funding was drained from artists of all disciplines seeking to start up something special. Postgraduate studies in Arts subjects were afforded a paltry nip at the collective cherry. Universities were hit hard: not only in terms of investment, but of access – the message broadcast with the introduction of backbreaking fees, with or without the small print, seemed to be that only the privileged had the right to a higher education. And despite protests (to which the police and the media were extraordinarily antagonistic) everything, everywhere, began to look and sound very much the same. And that’s what this book is about, among other things – a pitting of art, accumulating knowledge and the awe that comes with it against sameness, colourlessness, boredom, apathy. It’s a solid – concrete – yell of protest on behalf of every author whose local bookshop sells mostly three-for-two on airport fiction; for the exhausted Arts professors overworked or nudged toward retirement; for musicians, painters, filmmakers too shattered by their day jobs to remember why they must create; for those who graduated with me this June and are looking at a lengthy spell in a customer-service Purgatory. Art may not save a life by jumping in with defibrillators, food, shelter or money, but what comes after these basic needs are fulfilled? Those who wrongly belief art means excess are forgetting to ask a very simple question: what are we living for?