(humble even) and easy to slip on. It is also a middle-aged novel, gently nudging over past events to find explanations and justifications.
Phillip Carver is the wry, detached exposer of his family’s past and present. He wants a quiet, slippers-by-the-fire kind oflife, but he finds himselfsuckcd by his two harpie sisters into a decades-old desire for revenge. The issue at hand is apparently small - his 81 year-old widower father wishes to re-marry. The buttons on the patriarchal family cardigan are, it appears, about to drop off.
Taylor writes in the quiet style of his American New England predecessors, James and Hawthorne. Subtle observations about mannerisms and social behaviour initially deceive the reader. for behind the good-humoured character sketches lurks violent and suppressed emotions. The facade of a novel of manners and the passionate undercurrents squabble for priority. The book is essentially a detective story ofemotions, which spans the selected and the unwanted memories ofthe narrator. It’s a genteel and highly pleasurable novel by an author best known for his short stories. (Kristina Woolnough)
o The Silent Twins Marjorie Wallace (Penguin £2.95) This is. to say the least, an unnecessarily torrid account of the ‘hidden world’ of twins June and Jennifer Gibbons. One wonders what Ms Wallace’s purpose is in this expose, for it smacks of sensationalism. Each intimate detail of the twins’ bondage to each other, their unhappy silence, petty criminality and their artistic abilities are painstakingly (and painfully) divulged.
Under the guise of objective documentation, one feels Ms Wallace is constantly getting at something. Are the twins just misunderstood? Does the book attempt to supply the terrible and unrequited craving for attention felt by the twins? Does their artistry absolve their crimes? Is their punishment too harsh? Wallace doesn‘t even ask the questions, never mind offer answers.
It niggles. The subject oftwinhood is in itself fascinating. But here we have a melodramatic presentation of two depressed, lonely teenagers who turn to crime. Turning people’s sad lives into a ‘real-life psychological thriller’ and ‘a tragic story’ strikes me as rather sick and tasteless.
(Kristina Woolnough) 0 Act One Moss Hart (Hodder and Stoughton £9.95) Moss Hart looks back at his early years of struggle through the eyes of a successful theatrical veteran. His enthusiasm forthe stage remains uncompromising, despite a ready acknowledgement of the ‘somewhat foolish glow of the incorrigibly stage-struck’. Driven as much by hunger as by ambition, the pubescent Hart slavishly hangs on the heels of Broadway in the 1920s. The streets he has to tread — far from
being paved with gold — are scattered with the red-hot coals of embarrassment and public failure. Several summers leading gawky youths through ungainly social events at holiday camps takes its toll on his self-image.
The book is brim-full of humorous self-parody. Hart’s antics as a social director and an aspiring playwright are absurd. He repeatedly gorges himself and repeatedly regrets it. The sorrowful echo of clack-clacking lobster claws is too often his only applause. Quirkiness is rife — his own, George Kaufman’s, his aunt’s— all leave their indelible imprint.
The rags-to-riches story, first published in 1960, a year before Hart’s death, is told in a ruddy-faced, old-school way. The cult ofthe American Dream is firmly subscribed to: ‘The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream’. But Hart’s humour over-rides any inclination towards sentimentality, for when at last the play ‘Once in a Lifetime’ comes right, he describes how audiences refer to him as ‘not George Kaufman’ but ‘the other one’. (Kristina Woolnough).
0 World’s Fair E. L. Doctorow (Picador £3.50). The author of the modern classic Ragtime takes us on a journey through a brilliantly-evoked 19305’ childhood towards an adulthood of anticipated order and symmetry epitomised by the New York World’s Fair of ’39. Other characters’ voices occasionally pop up to ﬂesh out the narrative, beautifully told in Doctorow’s fluent prose. A joy.
0 Men Who March Away Edited and Introduced by I. M. Parsons (Hogarth Press £2.95) Reissue of classic anthology of First World War verse by poets who marched away and didn‘t come back and from those who survived the monstrous anger of guns and those who stayed at home. Names familiar to every English ‘0’ Grade candidate in recent times are here (Owen, Sassoon, Brooke) along with the lesser known talents like Charles Hamilton Sorley who ought to be remembered, ifonly for ‘When you see millions of the mouthless dead.’
0 Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary oi David Peterley (Penguin £3.95) Purporting to be an edited version of a diary lurking in McGill University Library and covering the years 1930—35 , Peterley Harvest aroused speculation about its origins when first published in 1960, and it still does. Who was Peterley? Is the diary and elaborate hoax perpetrated by its supposed editor Richard Pennington? What is Michael Holroyd’s involvement as preface-maker? Has anyone asked Hugh Trevor-Roper to investigate? 0 Like Birds in the Wilderness Agnes Owens (Fourth Estate £9.95) Wet Mac returns in this patois sequel to Gentlemen of the West to lose his
virginity and lay bricks. The broo revisited.
o Wainwright on the Pennine Way A. Wainwright and Derry Drabbs (Michael Joseph £8.95) Informed and superbly photographed souvenir for those who have completed the 270-mile hike from Edale to Kirk Yetholm and encouragement for anyone about to try it. And when you reach the end of the road. ‘walkers who have been well brought up will smarten themselves and try to look presentable. Boots will be scraped clean, clothes in disarray
made tidy, unruly hair plastered down and, above all, shoulders will be straightened and the body held proudly erect.’ All this just to get a free pint in the Border Hotel.
0 The Wind Blows Away Our Words Doris Lessing (Picador £2.95) It is seven years since the Russians invaded Afghanistan. One out of three Afghans is now dead or in exile or living in refugee camps. The furore of publicity has died down but
the war and the Muhjahadin’s resistance to the invasion has not. In September 1986 Doris Lessing flew to Pakistan to meet the refugees and has returned with a jolt to world indifference.
0 Titeh Chaim Bermant (Weidenfeld £9.95) Kosher novel of the life of a clever Jewish Pole removed to Manchester and belittled by his papa, the early begetter of his lifelong identity crisis. An untaxing, enjoyable read.
0 The Best oi Myles Myles Na Gopaleen/Flann O’Brien (Grafton Books £5.95) A chunky anthology from the Irish Times columnist. Brimming with invention, wit and wordplay. Miles funnier than anyone else.
0 The iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory? Beatrix Campbell (Virago £4.95) You didn’t expect to be told, did you? Otherwise a bold, imaginative, sympathetic look at the women who make Jeffrey Archer’s salads.
48 CANOLEMAKER ROW EDINBURGH EH1 205 PHONE - 031 225 2612
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Weekday selflconducted tours and. at weekends. a video. show the many skills employed iti glassmaking and decoration. Our Factory shop
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The List 17 — 30 April 47