Cover image for You have to be careful in the land of the free
You have to be careful in the land of the free
Kelman, James, 1946-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando, Fla. : Harcourt, [2004]

Physical Description:
410 pages ; 24 cm
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Jeremiah Brown, a Scottish immigrant in his early thirties, has lived in the United States for twelve years. He has moved as many times, from the east coast to the west coast and back again, all in the hope his luck would change. To add to his restlessness and indecision, he now has a nonrefundable ticket to Glasgow to visit his mother for the first time in seven years. The question is, will the visit help him get over the pain of separation from a woman he met and loved in New York and with whom he had a little girl, or will it make it worse? In this rich, funny, superbly crafted novel, Kelman has once again created a memorable character-compulsive, obsessive, self-doubting, beer-loving, and utterly engaging-and a singular portrait of an immigrant's America

Author Notes

JAMES KELMAN is the author of a number of novels and collections of short stories, including Busted Scotch; Greyhound for Breakfast; A Disaffection, awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; How Late it Was, How Late, winner of the Booker Prize; and, most recently, You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free . He lives in Glasgow.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jeremiah Brown, Kelman's narrator, is a Scottish immigrant living in an America subtly different from our own, where the homeless haunt the nation's airports, betting on frequent airline disasters, and immigrant workers are strictly classified depending on their politics. Brown speaks to us, as Kelman's characters do, with a thick Skarrisch accent. He speaks to us relentlessly, jumping from the present to the past, circling around the subjects that obsess and bedevil him. These include his reluctance to return to Scotland and the shambles he has made of his life with his ex-girlfriend and their daughter. He is both an optimist and a fatalist. He knows that he is doomed to continue making dumb choices, but he is endlessly hopeful that everything will somehow turn out all right. Kelman's prose has a wonderful rhythm as his character rails repeatedly against the inequities of class systems, the vagaries of love, and himself. Despite his gambling, his drinking, and his bouts of self-loathing, Brown is a compelling character and well worth your time. --Patrick Wall Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Booker Prize-winning Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) returns with another exuberant novel steeped in Scottish dialect. Jeremiah Brown, the 32-year-old Scottish narrator, has lived in the United States for more than 12 years, acquiring an ex-girlfriend, a daughter ("the wean" he calls her) and a string of dead-end jobs. The novel is a chatty record of his last night in the country, before he returns to Glasgow (in the country of "Skallin," as he calls it) to see his ailing mother. As Jeremiah bar-hops in an unnamed Midwestern town, drinking beer after beer, he reflects on his life as an immigrant ("I read someplace the emigrants werenay the best people, the best people steyed at hame"), his relationship with Yasmin and their daughter, and just about anything else that pops into his head: "I had naybody to talk to, it was just my ayn fantastic inner dramatics." The effect is like being captive audience to a drunk, sad, funny, bitter, paranoid but hopeful man who has thus far in his life "messed things up." The novel can feel claustrophobic at times, since the reader is trapped in Jeremiah's rambling mind. But Kelman pulls off this literary feat, aided by the undeniable charm and appeal of Jeremiah. The reader becomes easily acclimated to his Scottish vernacular ("I didnay even want to go hame"), which lends the work authenticity and immediacy-his voice resonates as he veers from story to story, only interrupting himself to order another beer and take in his surroundings. Kelman's latest will please and reward readers patient enough to pull up a chair and listen. 4-city author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Scottish immigrant Jeremiah Brown has gambled his way around America for over a decade, winning and losing the woman he loves in the process. Now, he has planned his first trip home to Glasgow in eight years. The novel begins hours from departure in freezing Colorado as he leaves his hotel in search of a bar. As he passes the time, we witness his astute observations and verbal self-flagellation in a stream of consciousness peppered with profanity, humor, and Scottish vernacular. We remain inside Jeremiah's head for the duration of the novel, learning of his singular philosophy, his delusions, and his stints as a bartender and security guard in New York. It is within the account of this security job that we learn that Jeremiah is living in a nightmare of color-coded identity cards, alienation, and paranoia, complete with spectral transients who haunt airports and guarded camps where new immigrants await processing. Our hero doesn't seem surprised, but readers should be jolted and challenged. Using a unique blend of stark realism and Orwellian fantasy, Booker Prize-winning author Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) presents a darkly comic picture of post-9/11 America, in which the fate of airline flights is furiously bet upon and schoolchildren fear the ominous helicopters ever overhead. This brilliant novel is highly recommended for all literary fiction collections.-Jennifer B. Stidham, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



I HAD BEEN LIVING ABROAD FOR TWELVE YEARS AND I was gaun hame, maybe forever, maybe a month. Once there it would sort itself out. In the meantime I fancied seeing my faimly again; my mother was still alive, and I had a sister and brother. The plane out of here was scheduled for one o'clock tomorrow afternoon. I was in a room at an Away Inn, out in the middle of nowhere, miles from the airport and miles from downtown, but it was cheap as **** so there we are and there I was. The woman on reception gied me a look when I asked if there was a bar within crawling distance. Then she thought a moment and told me if I walked a mile or so there was a place. She had a twinkle in her eye at the idea of the mile or so walk. Then she said she never used the place herself but reckoned they might do some foodI hadnay asked about food in the first place so how come she threw that in? I think I know why. I just cannay put it into words. But it turned my slow move to the door into a bolt for freedom. I had the anorak zipped right to the top, pulled the cap down low on my heid. Outside a freezing wind was blowing. Ye were expecting tumbleweed to appear but when it did it would be in the form of a gigantic snowball. While I walked I wondered why I was walking and why outside. Why the hell could I no just have stayed in the room, strolled up and down the motel corridor if I felt energetic. Better still, I could have read a book. Or even allowed myself to watch some television. Who could grumble about that; I was entitled to relax. Yet still I left the place and walked a mile in subArctic conditions. Mine was a compulsive, obsessive, addictive personality, the usual-plus I felt like a beer and the company of human beings; human beings, not tubes in a box or words on a page, and masturbation enters into that. In other words I was sick of myself and scunnered with my company, physically and mentally. And why was I gaun hame! I didnay even want to go hame. Yes I did.No I didnay.Yes I did.No I didnay. No I ****ing didnay. It was an obligation. Bonn Skallin man it can only be an obligation. The faimly were there and one had to say hullo now and again. Posterity demands it of us. Once I am deid the descendants will be discussing departed ancestors: Who was that auld shite that lived in the States? Which one? Him that didnay come hame to visit his poor auld maw! Aw that bastard!This is the obligation I am talking about.Jesus christ.But the reality was that my mother wasnay keeping too well. Let us put an end to the frivolity: if I wantit to see her again this seemed the time. I spoke to my brother on the phone. What an arsehole. Never mind, the point was taken, I had bought le billet with return scheduled a month from now and here I was. Yeh, the wind, and polar bears on the street. I like polar bears. And I like this part of the world. The auld ears, nevertheless, were being nipped at by icy spears. I settled into a catatonic march. Blocks of low-level factori Excerpted from You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free: A Novel by James Kelman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.