Man On A Mis­sion

Award-win­ning au­thor Dar­ren Mc­gar­vey is break­ing down bar­ri­ers with his fiercely in­tel­li­gent take on poverty, class and so­ci­ety

The Scots Magazine - - Contents - By GAYLE AN­DER­SON

DAR­REN MC­GAR­VEY re­moves his head­phones and greets me with a huge grin as I walk over to him in the cafe he’s cho­sen for our chat. “Ha! I saw you out­side on your phone and some­how I knew you’d be the one I was meet­ing – you had that look about you. Now what can I get you?”

His hon­esty and open­ness are quickly ap­par­ent. The au­thor, rap­per, ac­tivist and so­cial com­men­ta­tor, also known as Loki, knows how to read peo­ple, a skill he picked up out of ne­ces­sity at an early age.

It’s also one he de­tails in his

Or­well Prize-win­ning, muchtalked-about first book Poverty

Sa­fari. Part-polemic, par­tau­to­bi­og­ra­phy, it doc­u­ments his rise from a dys­func­tional home and de­prived so­cial back­ground.

“Grow­ing up in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment you have these in­stincts you’re not aware of that are help­ing you to deal with it.

Whether it’s tun­ing into peo­ple’s body lan­guage and voice tone or mon­i­tor­ing their gaze di­rec­tion.

“Even as a mal­leable kid, you be­come more so­phis­ti­cated and ma­nip­u­la­tive to try to keep some­one’s ex­plo­sive anger at bay.

“These things are useful in that mo­ment but they be­come hard-wired. You project those fears on to ev­ery re­la­tion­ship you have and ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion you deal with. It’s all about vig­i­lance – you live in stress all the time. It’s a de­fault fac­tory set­ting.”

His up­bring­ing in Pol­lok, Glas­gow, forms the com­pelling nar­ra­tive. An al­co­holic, abu­sive mother, poverty, drugs – it’s a bru­tally raw and real read. How does he feel about it be­ing dubbed a mis­ery mem­oir?

“That was a term I started hear­ing when I be­gan deal­ing with pub­lish­ers. I quickly clocked on to the fact that what­ever I wrote would have to con­tain el­e­ments of an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. That’s what would le­git­imise every­thing else I had to say.

“I just thought, ‘I can play this game. I’ll use it to my ad­van­tage’. I used the op­por­tu­nity be­cause I was con­fi­dent I could write a good book and that good things would come out of it.

“There are al­ways com­pro­mises in­volved, but it turns out that writ­ing about my own life has been very help­ful for a lot of peo­ple. They come up to me at events and even some­times just in the street. Whether it’s so­cial work­ers, cops or peo­ple who’ve lived it – it’s hav­ing quite a pow­er­ful im­pact on their lives.

“I think start­ing the book with a chap­ter on why I’m a crap reader was a good way of at­tract­ing peo­ple. Straight away they iden­ti­fied with some­thing. For many, they’d never found any­thing that talked about things that they were fa­mil­iar with be­fore. That was the very rea­son they didn’t read.

“They were blam­ing them­selves when ac­tu­ally the real rea­son they weren’t en­cour­aged to pick up a book is that the world is full of mid­dle-class fluff. If you’re not iden­ti­fy­ing with the sub­ject mat­ter then read­ing can be­come a la­bo­ri­ous task. It’s like when you’re forced to eat veg­eta­bles. You know they’re good for you but it can be hard. How­ever, a mooth­ful of Skit­tles goes down a treat – you for­get you’re eat­ing!

“It’s seems to be the sort of book that when folk are fin­ished read­ing it, they want to pass it on to some­one. It’s that word of mouth that’s push­ing it in a way I could never have imag­ined. And I’ve tried to do it with­out preach­ing or point­ing the finger at things.

“I’m very crit­i­cal of my own be­hav­iour both in the book and my live shows, which I think is im­por­tant. 

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