0 Early Jazz Gunther Schuller (Oxford £6.95) First published in 1968, this overdue paperback reprint traces the origins and development of jazz until the early 19305. The book is not a guide for the layman however but a serious attempt to get to grips with the music itself, using over 100 notated musical examples in the process. As a consequence those short on musical knowledge will probably find parts of the story hard going: perhaps the best way to read it being with a stereo, pile of relevant records, and your horn, close at hand. (Jimmy Hogg)
O Leaden Wings Zhang Jie (Virago £3.95) Described as China’s ‘first political novel’, this is a rare open window on the workings of the East. Set in a motor works factory, Leaden Wings is an unusual, intense and unresolved tale of friction. Zhang Jie looks at the problems faced by modern Chinese industry, the conﬂicts caused among management, workers and ministry officials by the need to modernise, to get away from the stifling ethos of ‘all eating from one big pot.’
Threaded beneath is the theme that, one suspects lies closer to Zhang J ie’s heart: the importance of love, marriage and the vexed issue, in a still feudal society, of divorce. Through a bewildering but easily assimilated cast, neatly typifying the diversity of attitudes to industrial progress and the mores of Chinese society, she highlights the hypocrisies and delusions of conservative communism, taking an uncompromising view, and suggesting that radical changes are vital to propel China forward into a more aesthetic and ethically aware society.
Politically incisive and exploratory, Leaden Wings is at its most illuminating in its portrayal of the daily mechanics of working communism. Considered controversial in China, Zhang J ie still operates within the constraints
of her ideology. Simplistically drawn, her women characters are all victims - silent or willing — to the pressures of Chinese society, Zhang Jie implying that a good marriage must be the ultimate goal for any woman.
Simply written, ifoverly detailed in its political intricacies, and irritatingly clichéd - much of her style may be lost in translation - this is a refreshing work. Yet Zhang Jie’s optimism for the potential of communism is hard to accept. The over-riding, disheartening impression is that these leaden wings will never ﬂy free.
o Monuments and Maidens Marina Warner (Picador £5.95) It‘s plain to see from the reviews on the back of the book that I‘m not the only one who didn’t make it to the end. This is not an insult, it’s just that it‘s not the sort of book that can be consumed in one go, or even in ten. Marina
‘La Manoillaise irom Marina Warner’s book,
.1 2 ‘ Monuments and Maidens.
Warner studies the use of the female form and the covert significance of those usages. For example, why are Liberty (the Statue of) and Justice represented as females? Warner traces these conventional personifications back to classical times and to their mythical models - goddesses who were supposed to represent particular virtues. From thence onward, the book becomes very specific about myths, statues, paintings etc. It would have helped if Ms Warner had continued to use only a few examples to illustrate her thesis, rather than trying to deal with the entire history of art and literature. Her admirably rcih and varied language also makes reading hard-going latterly - no doubt the fault of an interested bu average reader— me.
Warner’s main intention is to rid us of our lazy unresponsiveness to what visual images represent. The use of the female form is not, as we now would seem to think, a commonplace decoration, a meaningless and trivial sign: it is a symbol ofsomething, and its usage signifies still more. It is a shame that the early style and content of the book — which gives a brilliant exposition of The Sun’s use of the Britannia image to commend Margaret Thatcher to its readership - is not maintained throughout. In delving so deeply into her subject,
Warner has sacrificed vitality and accessibility. A shorter, less consciously academic version would be a boon to anybody’s bookshelf, (Kristina Woolnough) O Wolf’s Head J. K. Mayo (Collins £9.95) As cryptic as Le Carré and as sardonically suspenseful as early Deighton, the pseudonymous J. K. Mayo is a very superior sort of thriller writer. In this second Machiavellian entertainment a Government minister loses his head When it turns up on his dining-room table it is unattached to his body. H.M. Government is not amused. Enter Harry Seddall and his yellow jump-suited aide-de-camp, Sorrell — a pair of Whitehall smartasses unqualified for their assigned roles as huntegowks. Through a tangled web of secret service acronyms they uncover an abortive plot to destabilise Albania. Double-cross, revenge and a leaf or two from the SAS’s sex manual feature in the unflagging action, ably abetted by Mayo’s zestful dialogue and spare scene-setting. This is a jewel of a book: twenty-four carat gore. (Alan Taylor) 0 Lola Delacorta (Penguin £2.95) Gorodish and Alba, the cool duo of Diva fame, have another mystery to solve. In need of money they advertise in France-Soir: ‘Something you know might be worth a lot of money. . .’ Amid the crank calls comes a winner, sending them in pursuit of missing rock star Lola Black, previously presumed dead. Their search takes them on the Seine and down to Cannes. Events move so quickly there is little time for the reader to ponder detail or wonder where the money for deluxe hotels is coming from. This is just as well, as too much prodding beneath the surface glamour and the plot falls apart. Delacorta is obsessed with fashion and style and Alba’s prime function is as clothes horse and sex goddess. But Lola like Diva, is simply a fantasy of the comic book variety, and here goddesses, super heroes and clownish rock groups have their place. Lola is a slightly pretentious, occasionally witty, totally entertaining three-hour read. (Tami Cushing-Allan) o Taming a Sea-Horse Robert B. Parker (Viking £9.95) Latest in a long line of garrulous gumshoes Spenser, indirect descendant to the author of The Faerie Queene, currently has the sharpest tongue (and pressed slacks) in town. Like Gissing (19th century three-decker
The List 20 Feb — 5 March 43