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Mr (Rudyard) Kipling wrote some exceedingly popular stories and some ofthe finest rumpty-tumpty verse in the language. Since his death in 1936. however. and for a considerable period before it. his reputation suffered under accusations ofjingoism. racism and imperialism. But while critics reached for their sabres the public remained remarkably loyal to the writer whom one sour reviewer has described as ‘the literary man's Sun‘. Now there is a chance to judge his work anew for at midnight on 31 December 1986 everything published before his death fell out of copyright. allowing publishers to reprint without forking out royalties.
Penguin alone has three separate editions of the The Jungle Book and Just So Stories — in Penguin Classics. Puffin Classics and Viking Kestrel — in print. In all there are eight Penguin Classics published this month Plain Tales Front The Hills (£2.50). A Diversity of Creatures (£2.95). Debits and Credits (£2.95). Puck ofPook 's Hill (£2.95). Traffics and Discoveries (£2.95), and Life 's Handicap (£2.95). as well as the two mentioned previously. and a further nine are promised between March and September starting with Kim. Penguin has also published Kipling‘s authobiography Something of Myste (£3.95) and the standard if rather dated biography by Charles Carrington (£4.95). Oxford University Press. however. is not letting Penguin have a clear run and has published eight volumes of novels and short stories in its World‘s Classics series. including several rare and little-known works.
Six other publishers have responded to the free-for-all more modestly though with several splendid anthologies. W.H. Allen are emphasising a neglected aspect of the 1907 Nobel Laureates work in The Complete Supernatural Stories ofRudyard Kipling (£1 1 .95) while Charles Allen. whose great-grandfather gave the 16 year-old Rudyard his first job in Lahore, has edited a new anthology of Indian stories. Kipling's Kingdom (Michael Joseph £14.95). which boasts two previously unpublished stories.
Others in train include from Pavilion an illustrated Just 50 Stories (£7.95), published in collaboration with the National Trust. holders of the Kipling estate and Faber‘s poetry editor Craig Raine has made A Choice of Kipling's Prose (£12.50/£6.95) as a companion to
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T.S. Eliot‘sA Choice ofKipling's Verse. which is still in print in paperback. In the autumn Hodder is to published a selection of Kipling verse chosen by M.M. Kaye but MacMillan. the original rights holder is not planning to augment its already extensive list with anything wildly ambitious. merely paperbacking Kipling's India: Uncollected Sketches and adding a few titles to the Picturemac series of Just 50 Stories. All this comprises only a small part of Kipling‘s considerable output which if you‘ve read the lot makes you a better man (he was also a chauvinist) than I am. Gunga Din. (Clive Yellowjohn)
His Master's Voice? An illustration with a period ilavourtrom ‘Klpllng’s Kingdom’ (Michael Joseph £14.95).
0 The Sound of My Voice Ron Butlin (Canongate. £7.95) Never before has a book left me with a hangover. But Ron Butlin's thirty-four year-old (anti) hero Morris Magellan managed to give me one. That. you understand. is a compliment. For the alcoholic Magellan staggers. sicks and slumps his way through this novel. pathetically imagining himself as a biscuit-marketer extraordinaire. as the perfect father and husband. as an irresistible playboy— and as a full-time deep sea diver into a vast ocean of alcoholic oblivion. Poor Magellan‘s drunken arrogance — at times irritating but generally just a sad case — leads to various displays of mock-romanticism. For example. he drinks a dawn toast to the world. but is later found in a sozzled heap on the lawn by his daughter.
narrative is in the second person throughout — creating an extraordinary effect as Magellan is observed by an alter ego. a sober self. He retracts and dilates before 'our eyes. lost periodically in the alcohol mists. and given shape and coherence by the narrative voice. The distancing effect ofdrink is enacted by the novel‘s structure. by the mode oftelling: ‘No one likes it when you go down to the ocean by yourself. They don‘t like that at all. Nor when you turn politely to look back at them from the other side of a dinner table. for example. then wave goodbye as you sink smoothly out of sight. Occasionally. guests have arrived to ﬁnd you already waterlogged. let's say. and beached comfortably on the lounge carpet.‘
Morris‘s wife. Mary. maligned for being too understanding by her husband, works hard at keeping dinner parties and everything else aﬂoat. She is a strangely pervasive secondary character. subject to much of her husband‘s pseudo-drunken lyricism and sensuality which. filtered through the narrative voice. becomes poignant and sincere.
It's a fine first novel by a writer known primarily for his poetry. Butlin curbs what might be a claustrophobic subject with wry humour. as Magellan‘s brandy-glass view of the world blurs. comes into focus. tilts. keels over and blacks out repeatedly. Lyricism may well temper the harsh undulating realism of Magellan‘s oceanic goldfish bowl. but I don‘t think I‘ll ever drink again. (Kristina Woolnough)
0 High Art Rubem Fonseca (Collins £9.95) A book less worthy of its title I‘ve yet to find. High Art falls far short ofit. You‘ve heard it all — so often — before: a psychopath with a penchant for knifing prostitutes is at large. (Not surprisingly. you later discover his mother was insane. given to howling in her padlocked cellar). These murders lead the investigators to uncover a high-powered drugs syndicate. and a further chain ofcover-up killings is triggered. Stumbling onto the first clue. the narrator— lawyer/sleuth Mandrake — becomes involved. first professionally. then personally when he is stabbed and his girlfriend raped. Revenge. also by knife. becomes an obsession.
Mandrake is an irritating storyteller. breaking all the rules by reading people‘s minds while writing in the first person. A would-be Marlowe. without the wit or style. who finds his ‘point ofequilibrium in sexual activity'. he is nevertheless more real than the rest ofthe cast who flop through the pages like landed fish. His female line-up possess scarcely an interesting thought between them. whilst the assortment of knife-ready thugs who move the story along (by creating the corpses) produce only one spark of character in Iron Nose. a black dwarf with unpleasant cockroach habits.
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Aiming for screen-slickness. Fonseca achieves instead an almost awesomely pretentious work, shot through with passages ofviolence and gratuitous crudity. Some of High Art‘s original appeal may have been lost in translation. What‘s left could only — at best — interest those who are neither squeamish nor easily bored. (Rosemary Goring)
o Mummy’s Boy William Paul (Macdonald £9.95) The mummy‘s boy in question is in fact nearly thirty years old. Clive Quinn works as a lab technician at Porton Down Chemical Defence Establishment from whom he steals potassium chloride to murder his mother who is dying of cancer. William Paul gives us a frighteningly convincing insight into the twisted mind of a mass-murderer. Quinn has sworn to avenge his mother and will stop at nothing in pursuit of her imaginary urgings to murder her lovers. His methodology causes a national and an international scandal. From one small personal grievance springs an unstoppable tide of disaster. which carries away with it the credibility of a British government as well as hundreds ofinnocent lives.
Paul‘s cinematic manoeuvrings provide brief but telling glimpses into his characters. no matter how small a part they play. Liz Arthur sells Quinn a Concorde ticket. She is only four feet ten inches tall and her stool at the travel agent‘s counter has been given extra long legs. She observes Quinn from herown particular angle: ‘She noticed that he was handsome in an understated sort ofway. but too tall for her by far. She estimated that. dancing together. her forehead would be below his chest. But the. she thought daringly. we‘re all the same size lying down.‘
The ministerial scenes smack somewhat of Yes. Prime Minister but. ifwe are to believe what we are told. this is how it actually operates. John ‘Legover‘ Conway is also not dissimilar to certain MPs who shall remain nameless.
It all adds up to make a very credible thriller which gathers momentum and menace from the lucidity of madness. meticulously detailed by a journalistic eye. (Kristina Woolnough)
O The Postman David Brin (Bantam Books) Another post-nuke book nosedives onto book shelves. This one is supposed to be more authentic because it‘s written by a scientist. but. as I have long suspected. literature and science make a sorry cocktail.
Gordon is the unlikely name of the unwilling hero who just wants a bit of peace and quiet so that he can reminisce about the good ole days of beer. hamburgers and hot baths. But. despite his ignoble whims to the contrary. he dresses up as a postman and sets off to bring glad tidings to his fellow Americans. now sadly riddled with greed and selfishness.
Pulp fiction is what it‘s all about:
36 The List 23 Jan — 5 Feb