Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158

When Lanark was published in Great Britain, several reviewers, among them novelist Anthony Burgess, hailed it as a masterpiece; critic G. Ross Roy described it as “a work which can be compared without disadvantage to Carlos Fuentes’ Terra Nostra .” With its censorable illustrations (Gray is a painter and draftsman...

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When Lanark was published in Great Britain, several reviewers, among them novelist Anthony Burgess, hailed it as a masterpiece; critic G. Ross Roy described it as “a work which can be compared without disadvantage to Carlos Fuentes’ Terra Nostra.” With its censorable illustrations (Gray is a painter and draftsman as well as a writer), its typographical play, its fantastic erudition, and its impudent wit, Lanark immediately established Gray as a metafictionist of the first rank.

Gray’s subsequent works, while generally well received, have been less ambitious. A collection of short fiction, Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1983), plays with motifs from Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. The novel 1982, Janine (1984) employs, on a smaller scale, some of the tricky devices of Lanark in its parodistic rendering of sadomasochistic pornography. The Fall of Kelvin Walker: A Fable of the Sixties (1985) is Gray’s most conventional novel to date, a broadly satiric critique of the Calvinist values which he regards with loathing.

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