' IN PRINT 7 ~

varied, sometimes traditional, at others almost poetic and at others still, aggravatingly obscure. An enjoyable enough book, but one for the fans rather than the uninitiated. (Kay Barbour)

0 Harrison Ford Minty Clinch (New English Library, £12.95) Breezy. easily-digested biography of Hollywood’s wealthiest carpenter-turned-actor. Clinch’s book is heavily reliant on secondary material and covers the first twenty years ofthe actor’s life in a manner that barely justifies the term cursory From American Grafltti onwards the author is on firmer and more familiar ground and provides a solidly researched canter through the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series as well as the making of Blade Runner, Witness et al. Times to

coincide with the release of

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Mosquito Coast one might reasonably have expected greater coverage of that particular film. However, whilst generally strong on facts and light on insight, this is still a book that confirms an impression, from a recent encounter with Ford. that he is one ofthe most professional, unaffected and near normal of the current crop of superstars. Whether this makes him a suitable case for a full-scale biography remains a moot point. (Allan Hunter) 0 Voices from the Moon and Other Stories André Dubus (Picador £3.50) Ritchie is a twelve year-old boy who aspires towards the priesthood, but the goings-on in the Stowe household are hardly conducive. His druggy sister is fast becoming an alcoholic. brother Larry has separated from his wife Brenda (both being burdened with the guilt oftheir perverted sexual games) and Daddy Stowe. a divorcee, now wants to marry Brenda. Sounds better than Dallas? It is. Six short stories make one mini-novel: Dubus allows every character their own chapter as the dilemmas of all are viewed from every angle. He displays a fine touch and a realistic grasp of people’s emotions, managing to steer clear of the melodrama that a less controlled writer would certainly fall prey to.

The three remaining stories never quite match up to the master ofthe

first, but still make compelling reading. Try ‘Killings’ for a good old revenge plot, American-style. Sounds like sensationalism, but there’s a hopelessness pervading the story that negates the histrionics and highlights a nihilistic strand within his work.

There is in Voices from the Moon much gloom and despondency, but this is offset by an intrepidness, a doggedness that’s irresistible and can’t fail to grasp and hold.

(Kay Barbour)

0 Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady Florence King (Black Swan £3.95) Only once in her life did Florence King try to be liked. It was such a disaster, she never bothered again. But she made one concession: ‘Dimly l was aware that a female with a personality like mine has to make sure she looks and smells good at all times.’

Confessions is her story from birth (‘I began life by letting down the side’), to her early twenties when she throws in academic life and launches on a writing career with the crucifying tale: ‘I committed adultery in a diabetic coma‘.

With a mother more interested in baseball than babies, and a father immersed in books, she passed into her grandmother’s hands for upbringing. A fine example of shabby Virginian gentility, obsessed with ‘women’s trouble’ ‘polyps and clots and things that go splat on Colonial Beach’. she strives to instil Florence with ladylike virtues; but all she can now claim is that ‘no matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street’.

Labelled precocious from her first day at kindergarten, she held her peers in blatant contempt, suffering boys and the rituals ofdating only as a tedious means to a highly taboo end, calculatedly becoming involved with her college lecturer because ‘married men can’t take you anywhere except to bed’.

A radical feminist before the word had reached her generation she, like her mother, ‘declared war on femininity‘. It is left unresolved whether her foray into lesbianism is the ultimate act of rebellion; but as with every other subject it is treated with scorching honesty. Which is Confessions strongest point: blunt, blue and consistently funny, it’s never coy. On the surface a simple autobiography, it lances through the stifling conventions ofthe Fifties, in particular the American feminine ideal, mercilessly ridiculing hypocrisy and compromise with scalpel-sharp wit. (Rosemary Goring)

0 Men and Angels Mary Gordon (Penguin £2.95) A woman with a mission isn’t easy to live with, particularly when you are her mission, and she gives you the creeps. Wise as serpents and innocent as doves, Laura comes as live-in Childminder while Anne takes up her career and her husband goes on college exchange to France.

It should be a simply set-up, but

beneath Laura’s ‘smooth heaviness‘ lies something unnerving and chilling, and small irrational frictions begin to weld into inexplicable tension.

This is a poignant tale about love ‘a monstrous game of luck’; about the unloveable, and ofone human’s distortion, through emotional neglect, ofdivine compassion. Rejected as a child, Laura discovers in God a wrathful lifeline and an unmistakable call to save sinners from ‘drowning in the flesh’: in Anne‘s case. to teach her that ‘her children were no more to her than strangers’, and lead her to the Lord. even ifthe journey calls for a bloodbath to emphasise her point.

Focusing on maternal love and

childhood, Men and Angels sensitively explores the needs of parent and child within their relationship, giving a masterly insight into the pressures ofeducated motherhood. and asking whether a fulfilling career exonerates emotional casualties along the way. Mary Gordon’s themes are deeply-felt, subtly worked with high integrity and only one flaw. This might be classed as a domestic psychological drama. yet the tension is bearable, the climax less interesting than what goes before. and not quite convincing. It’s as though Ms Gordon felt a horrific end would justify the work as a piece of popular fiction when it is. clearly. far more than this. (Rosemary Goring)

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The List 6— 19 March 43