O Untouchable Mulk Raj Anand (Penguin £2.95) Not an account of the solo career of Elliott Ness but the pungent day-in-the-life story ofan Indian street-sweeper and latrine cleaner who has three options for salvation: God. Gandhi or a flushing loo. The ultimate excremental novel
0 Apartheid's Second Front Joseph Hanlon (Penguin £2.95) How South Africa exercises its military and economic might over the countries surrounding it. persuasively dismissing arguments against sanctions on the grounds that they would only hurt neighbouring states who themselves favour sanctions as ‘an investment in ending apartheid‘. o Chasing the Gilded Shadow Hunter Steele (Deutsch £9.95) Rude bawdy romp with much ‘broozling‘ in the Borders. during the felicitous reign ofthe ill-fated James IV. though the deflowering ofElizabeth Manners is postponed until page . . . Why should we do all the work'.’
0 Brit—Think Ameri—ThinkJane Walmsley ( llarrap £6.95) Uproarious. comprehensive guide to transatlantic differences from sex ("The Yank talk more about it. then talk more doing it‘) to pets (‘Britain is probably the only country on earth which could run 'I'V sheep-dog trials in prime time. and get soap-sized ratings‘). Especially good is
‘l lumour travels‘." in which American comics stand-up better than the loony. necrophilic. chauvinist Brits. ‘Been to Beverly Hills? They‘re so rich they watch Dynasty to see how poor people live.‘
0 London Magazine 1961—85 Edited by Alan Ross (Chatto and Windus £10.95) A chunky selection from the most consistently-readable contemporarv literary mag with contributions from Plath. MacCaig. Durrell. Lowell. MacNiece.
g Gordimer. Narayan. lleaney. Amis pere and many more. The editor
modestly restricts himself to an interview with the former poet laureate John Betjeman which is
strangely fanzine-ish. Asked ifhe
ever read novels for pleasure he replies. ‘1 used to until I became a reviewer‘. Common ground with the great at last though certain aspects of
his ‘perfect day" we would pass. ‘(iet
. upat 11. Visit local churches. lloly
? Communion 12.30; visitinga second hand bookshop all afternoon; tea to the sound ofa string band in the restaurant of an old-fashioned department store in the provinces: a variety performance in the local theatre in the evening.‘
40 The List 30 May — 12 June
o The Making of Britain: Age of Expansion L. M. Smith ed (MacMillan £25) Twelve succinct articles on select aspects of British society. culture. political systems and economic advances: from a reassessment of ‘the momentous victory of Protestantism'. and of rulers who managed to combine majesty with meanness. to an overview of ‘the inferior sort of people’ who had ‘neither voice nor authority. . . but are to be ruled.‘ Weak on intellectual developments. and lacking cohesion. it‘s nevertheless an interesting aperitif.
K s I
0 Some Everyday Folk and Dawn Miles Franklin (Virago £3.95) Step back 80 years into a busy Australian town in the throes ofelectioneering. and you find fervent feminism with a disconcertineg modern ring. Studded with eccentrics and vernacular: sometimes verbose. often amusing. and an eye-Opener for those who thought articulate feminism was a product of the Sixties.
0 A Century of the Scottish People 1830-1950 T. C. Smout (Collins £15). Focusing on the working classes. this work is an examination ofthe ‘complex world ofdeprivation and social division'. Professor Smout looks at the masses‘ experiences. expectations and relations with those ‘above‘. exploring the impact of industrialisation and changing economic and cultural patterns on society and suggesting that many of
It‘s another otthose ongoing eureka situations. The bath, however. is in the New Town and in it is not Archimedes but Anne Fine, author of one of the most
harrowing novels since The Collector by John Fowles. pondering on a title. She thought itwas all settled. ‘Laidlaw', suitably Scottish. the name of her narrator— a twentieth century schizoid man in the shape of a hideously-scarred politics lecturer— which she borrowed from a local car hiretirm.
No go, said her agent, and informed Anne of the existence of a certain hard-boiled Glasgow sleuth who. north of the Seine. is more popular than Maigret. Already facetious suggestions from nearest and dearest had been treated with the contempt they deserved. ‘No Orchids for Scarface‘. I ask you. ‘What’s the book about?‘ asked her fourteen year-old daughter and without being too specific. for it‘s not the sort of book she would like her or any otherchildren to read, Anne sketched an outline.
When he was five Ian Laidlaw ‘tangled with next-door’s Alsatian‘, and ended up with ‘a mangled half a face‘. His wife has left him and he lives a fastidiously safe and routine existence until he finds joy with one of his students, the perverser compliant Alicia whom he tortures then kills when the ‘relationship‘ disintegrates. The novel is his 180-odd pages long confession. 'Call itThe Killioy‘ suggested the young Miss Fine. So Anne did.
She can‘t recall where the idea forthe book came from. ‘There‘s no accounting forwhat‘s in one‘s mind'. she says, sipping a generous malt. She doesn‘t deny it‘s a nasty piece of work, her first adult novel after several children’s books, and one which disturbed her enough to dispatch it post
haste and anonymouslyto she who
hername on it.
Perhaps, Anne thinks. a setting ofa particular mood triggered it off but, whatever, once she began to be Ian Laidlaw she was gripped. As someone who ‘writes as a reader‘, who wants ‘an unputdownable book'. she was disturbed by her own fascination in what is a pretty macabre story, told in deadpan natural prose. whose power creeps up on you like a fright. For someone who has ‘a soft spot for novels that are funny' there are few laughs in The Killioy but there is evidence, after experiencing thirteen universities with her peripatetic husband, ofthe dry wit of academia. Moreover The Killjoy is that rare thing, an uneasy easy read. It lingers in the mind because Laidlaw‘s passionless story is so ordinary yet so sick. I didn’t know whetherto feel pleased or sad when Anne admitted to not having anything similar on the stocks, though for once I agreed with the publisher‘s verdict, ‘Unforgettable'. Quite so, Quite So! as Laidlaw himself would
have remarked. ; The Killjoy is published byBantam
takes ten per cent. It was returned with } priced £3.95- (Alan Taylor)
Scotland’s 20th century problems were. and are, a legacy of the Victorian era.
Reviewing the frenzied expansion ofcities, with slums that grew ‘like a cancer‘. and concomitant rural depopulation. be closely examines. the quality of life and advances made in living standards across this (generous) century, as measured by working conditions. real income.
' health and nutrition. Alongside the
well-documented miseries ofchild labour. prostitution. eviction. there was the unsung treadmill ofordinary workers. whose hours varied from about 60 per week as a shop-assistant to 98 as a railwayman. It was the gradual reduction ofworking hours. he claims. that did most to raise the standard of living in this period. Life was ‘competitive. unprotected. brutal and. for many vile. . . from 1830 to 1940 the expectations of the working classes were a hard life. a poor house. and few material rewards.’ He stresses. though, that ‘we would be arrogant. as well as ignorant. to assume that we are happier people than they were.’ It is nevertheless tempting.
A vivid selection from contemporary material infuses the book. with comments such as the following. made by a Glasgow doctorin 1842:
. . . in one bed, although in the middle 2
of the day, several women were imprisoned under a blanket because as many others who had on their backs all the articles of dress that belonged to the party were then out of doors in the streets.
Tracing the spread ofa homogenous popular culture. associated with the growth of towns and advent of universal compulsory schooling, Smout examines the growing contempt for country lifestyles. which led to many heading townwards seeking both fortune and excitement. Out ofthis. as spare time and incomes increased. came a ‘revolution' in recreational opportunities. from organised football to the appearance of dancehalls and cinemas. which played a significant part in altering age-long courting patterns. Drink. however. was for many their only
: escape: in the 1830s the average Scot
aged over 15 consumed about a pint ofwhisky per week. Much welfare was accordingly tempered with strict and degrading discipline.
2 Throughout. Smout highlights ; emerging class awareness and
division. implicit in the inequalities
} ofthe educational system and
teaching of the church. in the attitude ofpoliticians during the
Great Wartowards their
gun-fodder. and explicitly in the exploitation of the population by its employers and landowners.
Severely criticizing the insensitivity and short-sightednessof the ruling elite in its dealings with the working classes. he outlines the rise of collective political consciousness and growing independence ofthe working-class mind. through early