Miller, Karl (3 of 26) Authors' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2009-11-12, 2009-11-19, 2009-11-20, 2009-11-25, 2009-11-30, 2009-12-07

  • Interviewees

    Miller, Karl, 1931-2014 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    O'Reilly, Sarah (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 3: Description of house in which KM grew up. Early memory of a visit from gypsies. [02.36] Brief description of school and of Dr Guthrie’s Home for Delinquent Girls, a reformatory, and its locked-up quality. [03.42] Remarks on lack of class snobbery at The Royal High School, Edinburgh. Quality of teaching at; winning scholarship; difficulties with maths but kindness of teacher; its location. [06.24] Remarks on competition between boys; prevalence of exams; KM’s facility for. KM’s rivalry with Lachlan Mackenzie. Remarks on school’s illustrious former pupils, with description of Henry Cockburn. [11.17] Remarks on ‘benign’ aspects of school, mentioning football, rugby, choir. The importance of ‘getting off’ with girls and difficulty of meeting them. Remarks on Muriel Spark and ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ and picture it paints of 1930s Edinburgh. Remarks on politics of the Royal High School. Mentions Robin Cook, graduate of. [16.00] Description of teacher Hector MacKiver, mentioning: looks; Highlands provenance; generosity; talks with; devotion to teaching and teaching style. Remarks on Edinburgh literary life. Debate that raged over whether one should write in Scots; MacDiarmid’s ‘synthetic’ and dialect Scottish language; MacCaig’s English. [21.19] Remarks on proscription of Gaelic tongue; a comparison from KM’s primary school. Remarks on KM’s own accent. Terms applied to KM when he became an editor. Mentions father’s Glasgow accent. Remarks on BBC English and provincial accents in 1940s. [25.24] Remarks on KM’s friendship with Norman MacCaig. The subject of their talks. MacCaig’s poetry. [27.35] Remarks on Hugh MacDiarmid, mentioning: his letters; nature; complexity. KM’s regret over infrequent contact with Norman MacCaig during his professional life in London. KM’s regret over publishing a Norman MacCaig review by Christopher Reid. Remarks on a recent visit to Southern Scotland with Seamus Heaney and Andrew O’Hagan, and the revelations about MacCaig. [33.46] Remarks on adversarial relations between writers and KM’s culpability and regrets over today. The opposite situation, in which writer friends will review each other. Remarks on KM’s attitude towards his younger critical self. The negative aspect of commitment to, and admiration for, literature, promoted by FR Leavis. [38.40] Remarks on legacy of Second World War for people and communities. How KM reacted to the outbreak of war. Details of evacuation to Penicuik, near Straiton. Provenance of name of Straiton. Extent of KM’s home-sickness in Penicuik and mother’s misunderstanding regarding; running away from Penicuik to home. Remarks on war’s impact in Midlothian, and Sarah Waters’s ‘The Night Watch’. [45.03] Remarks on father’s experience in World War One; speculation regarding provenance of KM’s first name. Father’s job during World War Two. Remarks on lack of contemporary entries about the war in KM’s diary. Overview of how National Service stretched KM’s mind and experience. [48.26] Remarks on mother’s estrangement from war, mentioning: her dislike of Churchill and Duke of Edinburgh. Remarks on derivation of mother’s political outlook; how she involved KM in some aspects of her Communism. Remarks on lack of information about Stalinism during World War Two. [54.46] Brief remarks on mother’s politics, post-Second World War. Remarks on nature of relations between KM and mother; frequency of KM’s visits to in teens; her emotional character; sense of humour; quarrels with. The question KM asked himself about their relationship and mother’s verdict on KM, revealed to KM by his father. Mentions lack of affection displayed by parents. Qualification of mother’s attitude to KM. Wide experience of ‘repressive tendency’ in Scotland during period. [1.01.50] Some effects of KM’s childhood on relations with his own children. Remarks on difficulty of interpreting oneself.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Karl Miller, literary editor, critic and writer.

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