0 From Time to Time: Selected Poems William Montgomerie (Canongate £4.95). Why have we had to wait so long? last fortnight‘s List asked of William Montgomerie‘s From Time to Time: Selected Poems. Whatever the economic restrictions on poetry publishing (and this is Canongate‘s annual offering) the richness and seriousness of this selection makes the wait worthwhile.
Montgomerie looks first back to a Glasgow evangelist childhood. through the stale close past the pipeclayed tenement stair. then to a black Tay at Broughty. and to a cool, receptive Edinburgh.
For no poem is parochial; they all entwine Scotland with a Europe whose culture has an inescapable physical presence — Berlin, Italy, the Alps, but particularly Spain, whose landscapes are resonantly evoked:
A ﬂock of hammer-headed hoopoes tintack aﬂo wered rag to hot earth.
These are Scottish and European poems, then, but thirdly they constantly search through the literature of the language in which they are written, English and ‘lnglis‘. which most call Lallans and Montgomerie prefers to call ‘Lallan‘ in his elegy for Robert Garioch. From the simplicity of his hillwalking poems to the complex final sequence concerning a Rosicrucian Hamlet, Montgomerie describes and analyses with a wise accuracy.
The best poems are elegies. but the
40 The List 18—31 October
abiding sense is not retrospective: the time to which the poems are going is what justifies the search through time past. They are a statement in a fluid medium, a selection not a collection. There will be more, but From Time to Time, if you doodle teams of poets, puts Montgomerie in the Scottish X1 with Soutar and Garioch, Henderson. MacCaig and MacDiarmid. (Hugh Ouston)
o A Family Madness Thomas Keneally (Hodder and Stoughton £9.95). Readers of Thomas Keneally never know what to expect. He is the antithesis of the formula novelist, always experimenting, always looking to test his talent. A modern literary butterﬂy he no doubt causes his agent considerable angst. A Family Madness marks yet another departure for this most fecund of antipodean authors.
It is set parallelly in Kerry Packer‘s Australia and wartime Belorussia. now one of the states of the Soviet Union. In Sydney Terry Delaney is a nocturnal security man dreaming of his breakthrough in rugby league. Early one morning he meets Rudi Kabbel, the owner of a rival security firm and a Belorussian exile, a foreigner in a country of foreigners.
Kabbel is haunted by the past and presents an enigmatic front to the world. During the war Belorussia was occupied by the Germans and Kabbel’s father colluded with the Nazis for the promise of an independent republic at the war’s end. Through his own family history, his father‘s diary and his sister‘s letters a now familiar, but no more palatable , horror story of pogrom and atrocity emerges. Kabbel was a child throughout the war but his father‘s position as Chief of Police made him a witness of all this, particularly the partisan murder of ‘Onkel‘ Willi Ganz, an enlightened Nazi Kommisar who had befriended the boy.
Delaney innocently inherits this history when he falls in love with Kabbel’s daughter, the beautiful, Graham Greene-reading Danielle. He leaves his wife, his rugby career goes bung and the Kabbels— father, daughter, maniacal sons Scott and Warren, and Delaney's bastard girl -— disappear without trace. Too late he comprehends. Deluded by the guilt of the past, and by the predictions of a senile Belorussian, Rudi believes that the wave he has been waiting for to come and cleanse the world is approaching and the family anticipate it by committing suicide.
Based on a real incident in Sydney last year A Family Madness shows Keneally, at one time a prospective priest, concerned as ever with
human conscience and moral principle. He is aware that Australia is made up of the diaspora of other nationalities and that individual families hang weird skeletons in their cupboards. His response is a disturbing, daring, provocative novel in which present-day Australia is realised with chilling — and humorous - accuracy. The various narratives are dovetailed into an ingenious seamless garment which is dominated by the past but is, in fact, a cogent comment on the present. (Alan Taylor)
It’s the Booker Oil
The shortlist for the Booker Prize for fiction, Britain‘s most prestigious and controversial literary award. was announced earlier this month. A decidedly middle-brow panel of judges (Joanna Lumley, Marina Warner, Norman St John-Stevas, Nina Bawden and J. W. Lambert) have chosen a decidedly middle-brow sextet from which the £15,000 winner will emerge on 31 October. Among them are authors with previous form in the Booker and one former winner: Iris Murdoch. The Good Apprentice (Chatto £9.95) is likely to be a favourite with the bookmakers but only a short head away is the most approachable Doris Lessing for a
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while, The Good Terrorist (Jonathan Cape £9.50). J. L. Carr featured on the shortlist in 1980 (when William Golding’s Rites of Passage won) and he returns with The Battle of
Pollock ’s Crossing (Viking £8.95), beloved by reviewers for its brevity. There‘s a strong antipodean challenge with Peter Carey‘s expansive tale of a confidence trickster lllywhacker (Faber £9.95) and the much-fancied but unheard of Keri Hulme whose The Bone People (Hodder £9.95) had the hot springs bubbling last year in New Zealand. Finally, Jan Morris weighs in with Last Letters from Hav (Viking 8.95), a fictional travelogue and a good outside bet.
103 novels were submitted for consideration by the judges and while there was a strong Scottish challenge (McIlvanney, Kelman, Gray, lain Crichton Smith, Emma Tennant, Magda Sweetland) it was
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A Month in the Country
to no avail. Since the inception of the Booker in 1969 only two Scottish writers have been shortlisted - Mun'el Spark (twice) and Gordon Williams — and neither was first past the post. (Alan Taylor)
o Praying Wrong: New and Selected Poems 1957-1984 Peter Davidson (Secker and Warburg £6.95) Rare, readable poetry by an American master of narrative.
0 Television Today and Tomorrow: Wall-to-Wall Dallas? Christopher Dunkley (Penguin £2.95) Boxitis has the world in its grip. The Japanese have the most acute symptoms, viewing up to eight hours a day. Clive James aficionados know why. Only Dallas offers hope of a cure.
o Antrohus Complete Lawrence Durrell (Faber £8.95) Tall tales of foible and faux pas in the Foreign Office.
0 The Further Adventures ol Sherlock Holmes: Alter Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Collected and Introduced by Richard Lancelyn Green (Penguin £2.50) Holmes and Moriarty rescued from the Reichenbach Falls. Not the master but a worthy second eleven. 0 A Shepherd’s Delight: A James Hogg Anthology Edited by Judy Steel (Canongate £3.95) A collection to prove there’s more to Hogg than Justified Sinner. A comely sampler of prose, poems and song published to mark the 150th anniversary of his death.
0 Down the Hatch: Further letters at Denis Thatcher Richard Ingrams and John Wells (Private Eye/Andre Deutsch £2.50) Another hair of the dog for DT sufferers. Essential nightcap for ‘wets‘ ofall political persuasions.
O Unquiet Souls Angela Lambert (Papermac £6.95) Brilliantly assembled post-mortem on the embers of the British aristocracy. Champagne days, debs and death.
0 Natural Selection Margaret Mulvihill (Pandora £3.95) Earnestly witty. mildly feminist first novel of sharp practice and sybaritic caper in the booktrade — surely exclusive to the Metropolis. The publisher recommends it should be read in the bath while consuming expensive chocolates. Jelly babies are more appropriate.