Scottish Review of Books Review: The Cone-Gatherers
Consider the paradox of Robin Jenkins’s reputation. Hailed upon the publication of each new book as Scotland’s “greatest living novelist”, each of these books then seemed almost instantaneously to be forgotten. In part, this was because he never found a publisher who would consistently publish his work; in part, because as soon as he had finished writing a novel – at least until his later years – he moved on, never to look back. The Cone Gatherers is one of the classics of modern Scottish literature – indeed, one of the classics of modern literature per se, and a far better novel than Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men from which, in part, it seems to derive – though Steinbeck’s novel, of course, also has Scottish roots in Burns’s poetry. It is a pity that Canongate is now reissuing what was formerly part of the Canongate Classics series as a stand alone Canongate novel: the Classics series underlined not only the quality of the work but its centrality to the development of twentieth-century Scottish literature. Jenkins, like Neil Gunn, needs a publisher committed to promoting his oeuvre as a whole: in no other country would we be lacking the collected works of two of the most important analysts of our twentieth-century culture.