A Scottish book
I lived in Scotland for eight years (in the village of Glencoe up in the Highlands, and in Glasgow). Returning there always gives me a sense of homecoming - home in an elemental way. Until I first saw Glencoe I had no template for how a landscape ought to be. After time among those mountains, the hills of my native Leicestershire lost substance, they seemed like cardboard cutouts.
Conversely, being in Scotland increased my sense of being English (even though back in England folk started not understanding my Scottish accent!). I get a sense of my native culture only from the perspective of having left it, for it becomes muffled back on English soil.
I appreciated Glasgow's approach to the Arts. Practitioners of all forms, novels, painting, sculpture, film, acting, poetry etc, all meet and share some sense of common purpose. There was more cross-fertilization than I have known elsewhere.
I wanted my new bio of J. S. Haldane, Suffer & Survive, to give due substance to the Scottish aspect of the man's life. As the Sunday Herald notes of Haldane, 'if Goodman's thesis holds water, he deserves to be up there with legendary Scots such as James Clerk Maxwell and Alexander Graham Bell.' I wanted others to read the story and make such claims rather than do so myself (for I am obviously partial), so I'm pleased to see the Herald set the ball rolling: Scotland is indeed truly remarkable for the rosta of pioneering geniuses it has sent into the world.
George Rose's Herald review is an intelligent and informed one, which draws out many Scottish highlights of Haldane's story. I've admired these Scottish renditions - Bob Flynn explores further Scottish angles in his review for the Scotsman - and I am grateful for the fulsome welcome Scotland has afforded the book as one of its own.
Scotland is one of the communities to which the book especially belongs. One challenge of bringing out such a book is bringing it to the attention of a diverse range of communities and special interest groups. In tours of the bookstores, I have found it largely filed as popular science. True enough - but it's also the story of mining, of diving, of the First World War, it's an Oxford story, a German story, a tale of the Rhondda Valley, a medical history. We've worked to get the book into the mining museums, but the best chance of reaching wider has been the review coverage. Whether reviewers loved my telling of the story or not, they have all had a great run at telling compelling parts of the Haldane story. I wanted my book to say 'Hey, this is a great man. Consider him!' That story was unknown till now - and I'm delighted that Haldane's own life has come out of these reviews spectacularly well. Occasionally people have run with the eccentric angle, a 'human guinea pig' take which he would have deplored (he had a dislike of sensation seekers), but it soon becomes clear that this man had exceptional depth.