"An engrossing account of a young man discovering what he wants to do with his life."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"An enthralling and compulsively readable memoir: James Campbell is a marvelously charming teller of his improbable progress from high school dropout to literary critic and intellectual. There is no resisting the humor and modesty, the humanity and tenderness of his vivid account."—Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
In Just Go Down to the Road, James Campbell, a native Glaswegian, recounts his years as an incipient juvenile delinquent (arrested for stealing books!) and his young adulthood spent “on the road” in the early 1970s.
After dropping out of school at fifteen, Campbell struggled with family relations and factory work. Soon he threw it all off and went traveling—through Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. His was a bohemian existence; he got along by hitchhiking and trading work for shelter.
In time, Campbell settled back in Scotland. Long a reader and writer, he began working for local magazines and attending University. His early encounters with well-known authors including John Fowles and James Baldwin set him on his true path, which took him to the position of long-time writer of the NB column for the Times Literary Supplement. Just Go Down to the Road ends as Campbell gets his first book deal, and, after an unlikely start and unorthodox education, begins to find his place in the world of literature.
"This deftly written memoir . . . is the story of a writer finding his own voice."―The Wall Street Journal
"Just Go Down to the Road takes us along on the many twists and turns of Campbell’s journey from teenage rebel to the heights of British intellectual and literary life. The book is bursting with vignettes and adventures en route, including a generous selection of black-and-white snapshots.”—The American Scholar
"Above all, this is a memoir not so much of trouble – though Campbell acknowledges that but for the grace of literature, trouble might have been his lot – as of opportunity. Campbell joins a line of modern Scots, running from Robert Louis Stevenson to the anarchist vagabond Stuart Christie, who have just gone down to the road and taken it from there."—Times Literary Supplement
"Just Go Down to the Road sings with color and character . . . Literary to its core yet without a note of pretension, this is the captivating account of the writer as a thrawn young man.”―The Literary Review
“Just Go Down to the Road brings an exciting time in world and literary history to life. It’s a remarkable travel account that began with the simple suggestion: 'Just go down to the road, Jim. You’ll get a lift .'"―Foreword Reviews
"The writing throughout is excellent and measured."—August Kleinzahler, author of Sleeping It Off in Rapid City
"This memoir is one of a youth that remains vividly alive in memory, and now comes alive again on the page. It is very Scottish, revealing and yet also restrained in its selection of moments in a life – a memoir which is also a work of art. I hope there will be a sequel."—The Scotsman
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James Campbell was born in Glasgow. Between 1978 and 1982, he was the editor of the New Edinburgh Review. His books include Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland (1984), Gate Fever: Voices from a Prison (1986), Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin (1991), and a collection of essays, Syncopations (2007). For many years he was an editor and columnist at the Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.