Every Short Story – ‘The Spread of Ian Nicol’

‘The Spread of Ian Nicol’ is another very short story with that same mixture of fantasy and realism. The fantasy comes in its central conceit, that of a man literally splitting in two. What begins as a “bald patch on the back of his head” soon develops a face and ultimately results in two Ian Nicols. Gray’s matter-of-fact prose style is used to comic effect, with few seeming perturbed at events, one doctor commenting:

“Oh, it happens more than you would suppose. Among bacteria and viruses it’s very common, though it’s certainly less frequent among riveters.”

Once separated the two Ians fight over their identity, though even that is logically solved as one lacks a navel. Though amusing the ending is rather predictable as each of them begins to split again. Written when Gray was a student, this is an entertaining though insubstantial story.


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2 Responses to “Every Short Story – ‘The Spread of Ian Nicol’”

  1. Elizabeth Russell Says:

    I disagree totally with the comment above, that “this is an entertaining though insubstantial story”. It is a text that university students find fascinating not only because of the rewriting of Genesis and the creation of Adam but also because of the links with split identities in Scottish literature (Jekyll & Hyde syndrome or anti-syzygy) and, of course, with Dolly. Gray’s work is wonderful.

    • 1streading Says:

      I’m sorry you took that as a slight against Gray who is one of my favourite writers. It does seem at least a little insubstantial when set against Lanark or Poor Things though.

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