0 Reflecting Men at Twice their Natural Size Sally Cine and Dale Spender (Deutsch £9.95)
0 Manpower (Sally Soames (Deutsch £12.95).
Men have egos; women do not. As Jane Austen commented. ‘A woman, especially ifshe should have the misfortune of knowing anything. should conceal it as well as she can‘. and it‘s Cline and Spender‘s contention that from caveman to computerman. little has changed. A woman‘s task has always been to reflect men as they wish to be (inﬂatedly) seen. whilst suppressing any hint ofher own intimidating worth. In return. ifshe‘s lucky. she‘ll be granted bed and board.
Refusal to co-operate. however. as rape and battery statistics confirm. invokes sanctions that lead to further subjugation— a subjugation still taught. implicitly and explicitly. in schools. and tolerated or even nurtured in the home.
Reflective behaviour. it‘s clear. is linked to economic dependence; and as women become poorer — in world terms — with men owning over 90% of the world‘s wealth and doing only a third ofits work. it‘s increasingly in their best interests to supply the ‘emotional servicing' men demand. from the automatic conciliatory smile. to the mandatory orgasm. two ofwomen’s most significant and male-dictated gestures.
It‘s an important argument. Women too often have — and do — let men preen themselves as larger than life. and the imbalance of unreciprocated reﬂection needs to be modified. But to make the necessary point. Cline and Spender have rather overstated their case. Not only istheir language emotive and divisive. an unhealthy sense of sisterhood to the exclusion of all men pervading their work. but much of their dogma. particularly when applied to the late 20th century. is hard to swallow. How many today. for example. would accept that ‘at rock bottom. most women know that
the price of being feminine and approved of in a male supremist society is to be a liar"?
In Manpower. Sally Soames‘ stunning collection of photo-portraits. it might seem that yet another woman has fallen into the archetypal role of hallowing the Male. One glance at her work is sufficient to dispel the thought. This photographer is concerned with people. not poses.
Self-taught. self-made. and now working for the Sunday Times. Sally Soames has an eye and a lens to catch the innermost spirit ofher subjects. So here it is. the flower of805‘ masculinity. Orson Welles oozes. slug-like. in the backseat of his car; Eddie Shah crumples in despair. when he thinks the shutter is dead; the Head Keeper ofapes at London Zoo dips his paw into a polythene bag. cocky as a chimp. In a picture taken during the last election and considered ‘too revealing‘ to print. Michael Foot slumps in geriatric dishevelment. while a coal-smutted Scargill shows he’s one of the lads. Browsing through these prints gives one an uneasy sense of voyeurism. for Soames‘ talent lies in far more than excellent technical ability. It is the rapport she creates with her subject which allows such
Poetry, that most demure and diffident art, has at last acquired a loud-hailer and with any luck you’ll be deafened by its din between 4 and 15 May. That at least is the hope of the organisers of ‘Poetry Live’, a nationwide promotion including readings, exhibitions and book launches. Forthe first time poets, publishers, booksellers, regional arts associations and librarians have come together to try and find wacky ways to promote poetry to a wider audience.
Many of the events are based south of the border including a series of bizarre readings on the concourse of Waterloo Station and a poetry evening in the Albert hall. In Scotland events are concentrated in four locations; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Stromness.
There are a number of local poets taking part, including Douglas Dunn, Edwin Morgan, Valerie Gillies, Tom Pow and Brian McCabe butthere‘s also a strong field of imported talent. Perhaps the best known is Irina Ratushlnskaya who, at the end of last yearwas freed from a Russian labour camp. She's reading at Edinburgh's Queen’s Hall on 6 May with two English poets, Carol Rumens, a tireless worker to free interned writers, and the prolific llght-versifier Gavin Ewart. Other highlights are bound to be the appearances of Miroslav Holub from Czechoslovakia and Marin Sorescu, a Romanian who has been tipped in the past torthe Nobel Prize, at the New Salton Studios in Edinburgh on 9 May
and two performances at the Assembly Rooms 11 and 14 May. The first features Liz Lochhead, Alison Fell, and Ken Smith (writer-in-residence at Wormwood Scrubs) and the second, Edwin Morgan, James Berry and Fred D’Aguiar.
There’s an eyecatching leaflet with full details of the events available from the Book Trust, libraries and bookshops. The Book Trust has published four splendid poster poems specially for Poetry Live and it also has an exhibition from 4—23 May ‘Scottish Poets in Print’ based on a handy bookllst compiled by the Scottish Publishers’ Association. See also Mayfest Diary. (Alan Taylor)
revealing and poignant portraiture. As she captures the man behind the mask. and frames his vulerability as much as his strength. she stands among the vanguard ofa growing tide ofwomen who are. at last. reflecting men at their natural size. And a miserable sight they often are. (Rosemary Goring)
0 Without r-alling Leslie Dick (Serpent‘s Tail £4.95) This first novel is part of a new series of innovative writing— a commendable exercise in risk-taking by the publishers. Despite the cover-photo and blurb which suggest that the book is about sex. I couldn‘t find that much ofit. However. I did find a striking series of fragments and short narratives which imply (rather than specify) a psychological portrait ofTracy, a self-confessed neurotic.
Tracy is hell-bent on that terrible female masochism — falling in love with as many hopeless men as possible. She is also delving into her childhood for explanations of her self-destruct inclinations. Stock family hierarchies are implicated. with the father as Smacking Hand. the mother supplying Sticking Plaster (and no love) and the sister as cause ofHand-Me-Downs: ‘Nothing more dismal than growing out ofa dress you never liked very much. only to grow into the same dress.‘
The heroine is viewed from first and third person perspectives. which
neatly averts the imminent collapse into complete self-obsession.
Without Falling is dense and intense. astute and honest. But Kathy Acker‘s cover remark (‘areal woman‘s romantic novel') will probably put everybody off. (Kristina Woolnough)
o The Last Election Pete Davies (Penguin £3.95) ‘Funny how. in the weeks before the vote. everything gets tht little bit better.‘ Topically published this month in paperback. Pete Davies‘ acclaimed first novel is initially disappointing. It begins in standard anti-Utopian vein. lacking Orwell‘s depth ofvision or Burgess' linguistic invention. But The Last Election soon reveals extraordinary powers of narration. characterisation and description. Suspense is slow to take hold but eventually grips like a vice; while the bizarre but beautifully-drawn network ofcharacters consistently convinces and surprises.
Set tomorrow. it‘s about living in cold-heartedly capitalist Britain today. Details are exaggerated but truthful: failing infrastructure
55 The List 1— 1-1 May