o Him with his Foot in his Mouth and other stories Saul Bellow (Penguin £3.95) ‘Him‘ is Dr Shawmut who. after being compared to an archaeologist by an innocent librarian. repays with interest: ‘And you look like something I just dug up‘. Guilt-ridden he writes years later to the wronged Miss Rose. Penitentially brilliant.
o The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens (Penguin £2.95) Elevated from the ‘English Library" to ‘Classics‘. the master‘s first stout novel with illustrations by ‘Phiz‘.
o Insider Outsider: The Lite and Times of Colin Maclnnes Tony Gould (Penguin £3.95) Published to coincide with the release ofthe movie of Absolute Beginners. which Penguin has republished together with Mr Love andJustice and City of Spades. An habitue ofthe Notting Hill demi-monde. Maclnnes started to swing before the sixties but his dissipated lifestyle (drugs. drink. sex and contributing to New Society) was his undoing. His time was the fifties ofwhich his experience was not typical. The novels are ﬂavoursome and suitably squalid. as is Gould‘s biography.
0 Celtic Warfare 1595—1763 James Michael Hill (John Donald£12.50) Not an early account ofOld Firm duels but a scholarly study ofthe strategy and tactics of the Celts at war. Numerous battles are analysed in detail to keep wargamers happy. 0 The Ledge between the Streams Ved Mebta (Picador £3.95) Third instalment ofa beguiling family saga with Ved. blind since the age of four and now recognised as the outstanding Indian writer of his generation. at its centre.
0 The Shell Book of Cottages Richard Reid (Michael Joseph £7.95) Once upon a time cottages were slums. so fragile that thieves would debate whether to force the door or break down the wall. Now they‘re the rural retreats ofstockbrokers. lovingly restored and pampered like poodles. Reid eloquently reveals time past and present.
0 Uninvited Guests: The Intimate Secrets of Television and Radio Laurie Taylor and Bob Mullan (Chatto & Windus £9.95)
The television must be one of the most contentious items in our homes. We fill our bedrooms with a wealth of exotic paraphernalia and our guilt is minimal. but spend a weekend watching television and Monday morning can be paralysing. ‘How was your weekend?’
l ‘vLoLerulzlzxem 38 The List 7 - 20 Mar
sky-diving/wallpapercd four rooms and laid a carpet/climbed Arthur‘s Seat and then went dancing. What did you do‘."
We wish we'd never asked. Well. reassurance is now at hand for us
. shameful time wasters. Laurie
Taylor and Bob Mullan with the aid of the Research Business have conducted a study which concludes that television is not the passive. loboromising machine many have claimed it to be. With the help of 3000 devoted viewers throughout Britain. Taylor and Mullan suggest that television is watched with our creative faculties fully employed. We are aware of technical tricks and freely make critical judgements about what is or is not real. The method adopted by the research team was informal discussion groups which are quoted throughout the book: ‘There isn‘t a front door (Dallas). A great big place like that and no front door. You wouldn‘t invite people in through the patio door. would you'?‘
None of the evidence in this book is particularly surprising and the sub-heading is rather misleading for there are few revelations. intimate or otherwise. However certain things stay in the mind. like the Fleet Street journalist crawling on his stomach through brambles. duffle coat over his head. to get a picture ofa newly built set for Crossroads. He was eventually spotted and chased away by security men with dogs. but he remains unrepentanti ‘And after all that they phone up your editor and complain. saying you’re ruining people‘s enjoyment. It‘s not true.
That journalist uses a pseudonym to protect himself from colleagues. and no doubt the big nasty producers of Crossroads.
Uninvited Guests makes an interesting contribution to the long running debate on the pros and cons of television. It will probably receive some harsh criticism. particularly from those who are convinced that most forms ofsocial decline are the direct result of the black box. However. allowing for the limited authority always present in this kind ofresearch. it seems that the authors have been fair in their arguments and have put them across in a readable way. As a broad view of the most popular programmes. soaps. chat shows. the news, sitcoms and variety. this book is fairly comprehensive. The one omission of a serious nature is Brookside. a personal complaint admittedly. They were unable to find enough regular viewers to pursue a discussion. which perhaps tells us something about the group selection. But once this flaw is
forgiven there is plenty to hold the
attention. provided you can tear yourself away from the box long enough to read it. (T.Cushing-Allan) DEPRESSIVE SCHOOL
0 The Flood Ian Rankin (Polygon £4.95 pbk. £9.95 hbk)
o The Comeback Alex Cathcart (Polygon £4.95 pbk. £9.95 hbk)
0 Thin Wealth Robert Alan Jamieson (Polygon £4.95 pbk. £9.95 hbk) Deep in The Flood Mary. mother of its bewitched and bewildered hero. a humourless Adrian Mole. decides that Scotland isn‘t so bad after all. Perhaps ifshe read these admirable admissions to the nouveau depressive school of fiction she might think otherwise. For here is a country in the doldrums; oil and optimism are seeping away. pits and shipyards are closing. whole communities seem to be suffering from hangovers.
Hamish Creese in The C 'omebaek. Alex Cathcart‘s riposte to the ‘miles better‘ hype. is another victim ofthe blight but his escape to Australia is prompted more by fear than the pospect ofthe dole. In the rivetting opening pages he is pinned. literally. to the floor of a Glasgow pub by the resourceful. debt-collecting hoodlum. Eddie Gaffney. Down under. (‘reese throws off his sand-in-thc-face mantle and troubleshoots for the unions. But he's an outsider who knows he must return to Glasgow to purge the nightmare of the past. Fifteen years on Gaffney has been in and out of prison and is now a poet and television personality with a (‘V cribbed from Jimmy Boyle. Creese bitterly wants revenge but Gaffney believes he has paid his debt to society. It would spoil it to reveal how it ends but the return to the scene of the crucifixion is handled confidently ifmelodramatically.
The Comeback is a very satisfactory debut by a writer who has soaked up inﬂuences from Mcllvanney. Kelman and others less close to home. and from them fashioned his own tough style. The Flood is more patently a first novel. but one again in which the past broods darkly over the present. At its centre are Mary Miller and her bastard son Sandy. whose growing up in a Fife village is typical of boyhoods anywhere. Wet-dreams.
acne. under-age drinking and furtive smoking reassure us that Sandy is an ordinary adolescent.
The Flood. however. is rescued from banality by the studied portrait of Mary. upon whom coincidence and a superstitious community have bestowed occult powers. But her salvation in a biblically-inclined ending is pretentious and hard to swallow.
Thin Wealth. Robert Alan Jamieson‘s second novel. has no more satisfactory a finale but is is an ambitious and stylishly written book. It‘s based in Shetland between 1973 and 1983 and it relates lyrically the effect ofoil on a traditional. close knitcomrnunity. Reminiscent at times of Under Milk Wood. we see life on the island through the eyes of natives and incomers. some clinging limpet-like to the old ways while ‘the smoothmakers' make fast bucks at Sullorn Voe. With oil wealth comes the white man‘s diseases and Shetland is raped while the oil companies exploit the seabed. For some. like the crusty old croftcr Lowrie a‘ Wurlie. it is unfathomable and he watches the changes with alarm. To Linda. growing up during the decade. the effect of oil is to make her stay on Shetland rather than go to art college on the mainland. It is the young who realise the cultural implications ofthe changes. and for all the Shetland Council‘s good husbandry and planning for the future without oil. they understand that money alone cannot protect the islands‘ heritag ‘. The assault on Shetland is one on values and women earning £ 1 00 a week cleaning are unlikely to go back to the tedium of handknitting. Gradually. there is a fumbling towards restoring faith in the old values. the language. the way oflife. and in Jamiesons‘s hands the Shetland idiom is musical and potent. As the oilmen leave Shetlanders are seen to return home. a sailor abandons his career to look after the croft and Linda watches an oil tanker ‘slipping silently beyond the horizon'. The implication is good riddance to bad rubbish but a question mark still hangs over Shetland‘s future. Undoubtedly oil will spawn other novels but Thin Wealth is an exceptionally rich and rewarding first strike. (Alan Taylor)
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