‘sexually hors de combat‘ but with the wit and charisma to attract a paragon like Barberina Rockwood, his shipbound companion who has renounced a promising career in the ballet. to steady his tripod. Cut loose
l hilarious, like when he is forced to eat sheep’s head — eyes and all — on ; board an Arctic fishing boat, some I hairy, as when he nearly slips to grief l in the Faroes; all are related with a
, . . ' storyteller s relish. He establishes
. JUST PUBLISHED
0 Money Martin Amis (Penguin £2.95) Transatlantic picaresque tale involving slob-pornographerJohn : Selfwho sincerely wants to be rich .and doesn’t mind how he gets there. At last an English novelist from the . Bellow mould brave and talented g enough to be excessive. O Dari: Ouartet Lynne Reid Banks (Penguin £2.95) Fietionalised account ofthe lives of the Brontes. Z 0 A Bullet in the Ballet Caryl Brahms and SJ. Simon (Hogarth £3.95) The 5 ‘not supernaturally intelligent’ j Inspector Adam Quill steps in when leading dancer Anton Palook catches a bullet in front of two
o The Fall of Kelvin Walker Alasdair
3 Gray (Penguin £2.95) Nietzsche meets Dick Whittington as Kelvin takes the overnight coach to
. London. Armed only with his
‘ personality he makes it immediately .- to the top BBC chat show — only to Fall and end up as Moderator to one 3 of the Church of Scotland’s Splinter groups. So that’s what happened to Simon Dee.
Irish Short Stories Selected by David ; Marcus (NEL £3.50) More than
f thirty stories which reﬂect Irish dominance in the field. Joyce,
E Trevor, O’Brien, Lavin and Bowen
‘ and many others, though no Beckett or Bernard MacLaverty.
f 0 Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of
Jack Kerouac Gerald Nicosia
(Penguin £4.95) Over-long lament
for a dead Beat.
. 0 Collected Poems and Prose Harold
2 Pinter(Methuen £3.95)
Confirmation of the breadth of Pinter’s talent. Often his poems are as dramatic as his plays though his homages to Len Hutton and Arthur Wellard reveal a man as obsessed with stumps as he is with the boards.
0 Enid Blyton Barbara Stoney
(Hodder and Stoughton £7.95) ‘She
was a child, she thought as a child
and she wrote as a child . . .’ was how one commentator analysed EB’s
success and it’s a view with which her
biographer would concur. Throughout her career she wrote some 600 books (averaging 15—20 a year) and created Noddy, Big Ears, the Secret Seven and the Famous
: Five. She is reviled by educationalists and librarians, loved by book-sellers and children, deiﬁed by her bank manager. ‘All it takes, really,’ she said, ‘is imagination’.
0 Scot Free Alastair Scott (John LMurray £10.95) Good travel writers
36 The List 18April— 1 May
thousand people, ‘most ofwhom had paid for their seats’. More spoofthan
don’t take themselves too seriously, nor do they need to indulge in self-justification. They go because secretly they hope the going will be good. to give the world a slip, for no very special reason. and often with no particular destination in mind. Ideally, they are footloose. fancy free and a little mad. amazed that anyone might be interested in their adventures. ‘Who’, asked Evelyn Waugh. ‘in his sense will read. still less buy, a travel book of no scientific value about a place he has no intention ofvisiting‘?‘ I own up: I will. Scot Free has all the necessary ingredients to tempt a plastic card out of my pocket and to hold me becalmed in an armchair for hours. This book, and shelfloads like it, are the principle reason why I haven’t been beyond the parts British Rail can’t reach. For where are you likely to find a companion as amusing. fallible and generous as this russet-cheeked author, who laughs as much at himself as he does at the world, who travels for travel‘s sake and whose movements are as unpredictable as an unchoreographed dancer’s? Perhaps in an Edinburgh kilt-maker’s shop. That was where Alastair Scott’s journey began and it proved well worth the visit; for £45 he bought ‘a uniform that attracted carte blanche credit, high interest and spontaneous mischief.’ Less remunerative were the bagpipes which he wisely abandoned after six months: even Icelanders prefer Abba. For five
years itchy feet propelled him round
the globe, earning his keep and a little more, then moving on by whatever means of transport were available. Scot Free covers the first two years in which he zig-zagged like a loser’s counter at Snakes and Ladders between Iceland and New Mexico. Incidents abound, some
Las Vegas, a microcosm of neon, halogen
ientente cordiale with the Eskimos.
makes Whickerish visits to New York and Las Vegas (‘l rather liked the place’). has bear trouble in Glacier National Park and whoops it up in a modern Malamute saloon where he receives the ‘Sourtoe (‘ertificate' for downing a cocktail which instead ofice has a toe ‘the second biggest on a foot. a putrid brown-green colour with a ragged nail and a protruding bone.‘
Along the way Scott meets characters galore and depicts most with affection; glad of hospitality. a lift or the chance of a chat. Rarely does he indulge in introspection and only when ruminative does his tale jarbut he is too wide-eyed for that mood to persist for long. "l'he more you saw. the more you realised how much you were missing'. he thinks when deciding to decline an offer to stay in New Mexico as a cowboy and it’s his insatiable curiosity which carries him towards the next bend. Next stop the land ofthe lncas. ‘It seemed the best thing to be up and go”. wrote Iimpson. it‘s a sentiment Alastair Scott would endorse. for so far the goings been good. (Alan Taylor)
0 The Fisher King Anthony Powell
(l-leinemann £9.95) Alecto, as
anyone who‘s been up the Clyde on a banana boat will know, was one of the Furies; represented with flaming torches. her head covered with snakes and breathing vengeance. war and pestilence. She was not very nice. Strange then that Anthony Powell should launch the cast in his new book on a cruise round Britain in a ship of the same name. But Powell has always been inveterately allusive and at 80 is in no mood to change the habit ofa lifetime.
The Fisher King is thick with analogy. its’ title a glance backwards at one of the most enigmatic figures in Arthurian Legend. Saul Henchman is his modern counterpart. a maverick.
__~ :2 ' ‘
and mercury vapour.
from land. Powell examines their relationship mainly through the eyes
' of Valentine Beals. a successful
historical novelist with a fortuitous
j knowledge ofmyth and legend. who
sets ‘supercilious neglect against
; heartening royalty statement.’ While
Beals‘ party. consisting of his wife and the nosey Middlecotes. speculates over the odd couple. others aboard have a more vested interest.
The plot. such as it is. unfolds coincidentally. in Powell’s familiar circumlocutory style. Eccentric sentence-spinning (eg ‘He liked extracting pungent overplus from superficially unpromising essences‘) mingles with delightful urbane humour as Barberina seems set to ditch Henchman. But for whom?
(iary Lamont. a highflying ! newspaper exec ‘ a kind of latterday ' (iatsby'. seems likeliest to carry her
off but on the high seas an unlikely
, rival surfaces. young and languid 5 Robin Jilson.
()ther passengers are used like props. rarely taking centre stage but giving depth to the story and its
- allusiveness. Mr Jacks. an ageing
Don Juan. bores brilliantly from his
bar stool. the predatory Dr Lorna 5 'I‘iptoft who has her eye on Jilson and ; whom Beal equates with the Loathly
Damsel. and the homosexual couple, Basically Bach and Marginally Mahler. eternally locked in altercation over whose favourite composer was greatest: all dance not to the music of time but of love. As
danced by Barberina Rockwood it is
full of meaning and implication. heralding the end ofa relationship, the start ofsomething new.
Powell‘s novel walks the gangplank between farce and seriousness. but his control is never in doubt. It is a microcosm of the Human Comedy.
: sad and comic. verging on the ridiculous even to the last as
Henchman. cut adrift from Barberina. and Mr Jack trudge across an Orkney moor laden with cameras and fishing tackle:
The rain had abated a little, though not altogether. In spite of foul
weth er there was exhilaration in the northern air. The leaden surface of the loch was just perceptiny heaving
5 in the wind. still blo wing from time to
time in fairly strong gusts. ()n the far side of the waters, low rounded hills, soft and mysterioto' concealed in luminous haze the frontiers of Thule: the edge of th e known world; man 's permitted limits; a green barriered check-point beyond which the fearful cataract of torrential seas cascaded down into Chaos.
As Beals says. ‘the story was drawing to a close, if any story could truly be said to have a close.‘ With The Fisher King you feel inclined to turn to the first page and start again. (Alan Taylor)