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Swing Hammer Swing! Paperback – May 12, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (May 12, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156001977
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156001977
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This debut novel, set in late-1960s Scotland, depicts a week in the life of a writer faced with unending problems.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Whatever else it does, this 1992 Whitbread Award winner points up the disparity between what can make best sellers lists in the United Kingdom vs. the United States. Make no mistake--this is Literary Fiction (caps intended); the blurb-writers who compare Torrington to Joyce are entirely on the mark. Set in Glasgow in late 1969, the novel chronicles a week in the fateful life of soon-to-be father, would-be novelist, slum-dweller Tom Clay. The nearly 30 years of gestation that Torrington's book endured show through in the vivid characterizations of Glasgow and its denizens. What plot exists is subservient to vignette, but, in the tradition of Joyce, the language is rich and colorful. Not for the average U.S. fiction reader, especially with its heavy use of regionalisms, this work should still appeal to some with more eclectic tastes. Strongly recommended for fiction collections with enough funding to be venturesome.
- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
More than a year after receiving this book as a Christmas present from a sibling whose literary taste I was beginning to question, I at last opened it. Within minutes I regretted not having done so much sooner. This first novel is, in short, a magnificent work, a fact that hits you from the first page. It is said that the author spent 30 years writing Swing, Hammer, Swing. I believe this, as the facility with language, the ability to convey the tragic hilarity of life, the penetrating insights sandwiched between slapstick picaresque, all of these features, so evident in the novel, betoken an author of far more experience than one would expect from a first-time novelist. In fact the 30-year gestation of the novel goes a good way toward accounting for its apparent paradox -- the fact that it is marked by youthful exhuberence and playfulness, yet conveyed with all the indicia of a seasoned word-monger at the top of his game.
I was pleased to see reviews placing this work alongside Joyce's and Pynchon's, but I would put Torrington closer to Donleavy. The picaresque journie of Thomas Clay -- haunted throughout the week that we spend with him by omens of his mortality -- reminds me more of the misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield (The Ginger Man), Cornelius Christian (Fairy Tale of New York), and Darcy Dancer (The Adventures of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman), than they do of the perambulations of Tyrone Slothrop (Gravity's Rainbow) or Leopold Bloom (Ulysses).
Although Torrington may well be the Scots' Donleavy, to push the comparison too far would deny the originality of the novel. And while I laughed out loud throughout, drawing concerned looks from fellow patrons of the cafe where I read most of the book, this is not just a funny novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on June 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ah, me. A rambling, punny underdog of a picaresque book and narrator slumming it amongst the down-and-outers in late 60s Glasgow; it's quite winsome, really, especially a delight for the reader who, like protagonist Tom Clay, has a mind that runs loop-the-loops around itself and other people. The comparisons with Joyce's Ulysses are apt in that - despite the fetid environs and the sword of Damocles that hangs atop Tom's soon-to-be-demolished Council Flat - the book is essentially comical and punny funny.

But therein also lies its drawback, its wee little weakness. All these puns become somewhat tiresome after three hundred odd pages. Further, the amateurish philosophising begins to come across as terribly sophomoric as the four hundredth page is turned.

Be this as it may, the writer to whom every reader in Scotland or England will be comparing Torrington for ages hence is not Joyce or Donleavy and, Deo Laus, nor Irv Welsh, but James Kelman and more particularly the Booker-winning How Late It Was, How Late: A Novel. Kelman is simply the greatest Scottish writer to set pen to paper perhaps since Hogg. The Glaswegian dialect in his works flows more deeply and more swiftly than in Torrington's work, without all the bric-à-brac of puns and literary allusions that bestrew the prose here. And Kelman hits hard, very hard.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Middlebrook on December 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
This tuneful novel traces the adventures of Tom Clay through the waning days of The Gorbals, a slum in Glasgow that is yielding slowly to the wrecking ball of urban renewal. But the story is slight compared with the voice, which is by turns musical, poetic, punny, and amateur-philosophical. Torrington, like his protagonist, isn't afraid to careen between the high and the low, from Pascal's "Pong-sees" (as railway driver, Wee Tulley, calls them) to decrepit domino players ("those rowdy spot-mortems") drinking stout in equally decrepit pubs. Throughout the book, it was the working-class Glaswegian cadences, whether lilting or gutteral, that kept me charmed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beau Timken (timken@nsa.com) on November 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Jeff Torrington makes a grey Scottish day into a carnival of the absurd. He turns a week-in-the-life of one man into a pilgrimage of mediocrity, and a dance of celebration. I have never eaten a book up word for delicious word like this varitable feast. You don't know me and I certainly do not know you, but I guarantee that you will love this book.
Add it to your cart, and pay your electric bill in advance, because you will be up all night!!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
Swing Hammer Swing was given to me by a friend who dropped it in my lap and said, "You'll like this." If you are the kind of person who likes Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat..... then don't read Swing Hammer Swing. Jeff Torrington has mastered Scottish innuendo in his writing. A good prep to Trainspotting and vice-versa.
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