the footholds used to get there. But the view is disappointing, the day foggy and the only character you believed in sacriﬁced for the sake of the plot. (Sally-Ann Kerr)
0 The Mad Woman’s Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings: 1968—1985 Germaine Greer (Picador £3.95) Baring all — the unpublished as well as the classics — this collation from the dame some have dubbed the architect of the permissive society, spans 20 years of scalpel-jobs on almost every sexually contentious issue of our times. Stemming from a three month stay among Italian peasantry in 1967 which set her radically on the feminist tight-rope, this fascinating selection traces Greer‘s changing tone and interests, from early and righteous aggression in such pieces as ‘Lady love your Cunt — Because nobody else is going to’, and ‘Seduction is a Four Letter Word’, a new slant on rape which won her Playboy’s Journalist of the Year award, to her comparatively recent interest in world politics. This is a confrontational and deliberately provocative collection which begs the question: how far have women advanced in the past two decades? In her later work Greer herself is as acute as ever but less strident, emotive but perenially humourless. She’s no more like to win round today’s sceptics to her cause than when she first hit the pioneering trail. (Rosemary Goring)
o The Spring of the Ram Dorothy Dunnett (Michael Joseph £11.95) This is vol 2 of the ‘Niccolo’ series, hard on the heels of the paperback of Niccolo Rising. The ambiguous title (is the Ram’s Spring athletic or seasonal?) has mythical allusions:
Apologies for absence last issue but I went AWOL after being plied with large gins by an upwardly-mobile novelist who wouldn’t take no for answer — even if I‘d offered it. All present and correct now, though. What am I saying! All present and correct; that‘s a laugh. Half my left thumb’s missing after I had a mishap with a tin of corned beef. That happened on the back of pouring milk into the coffee jar instead of into the cup. My shoulder is still twitching after wrestling with Cherry and I have a stye in my left eye which the local quack puts down to loose living. And on top of all that my trusty Harris tweed jacket has started to fray at the cuffs the very week the Observer says it’s just the ticket for smart lads in Islington this autumn. I’ve waited seven years to hear that. I bought leather patches to stop the rot and that should get me through the next couple of weeks, even if does make me look like something that‘s been turfed out of a seminar in the Hume Tower. But what happens long term? The live-in seamstress says the fraying will spread like gangrene until there’s no arms on the jacket and no amount of
Nicholas, dyemaster’s apprentice turned merchant, voyages, a Renaissance Jason, to the land of the Golden Fleece. Opulent settings from Florence to Trebizond allow Mrs Dunnett’s well-researched and energetic word-processor full rein, as does her typically vast array of lively characters, real and imaginary. Inevitably there are parallels between Niccolo and Lymond — the Eastern setting, vulnerable heroes, concerned but misunderstanding companions — but there’s no danger of Mrs Dunnett souping up the same series twice.
Nicholas’ career ﬂuctuates rather like the farmuk he makes for the Medici grandson (’shaped like two mushroom heads stuck together . . . the object unreeled, and then rose to his head and dropped again. He kept it rising and falling.’). ‘You’ve got knots in it,’ he tells Cosimino. And how! (Chris Ashley)
0 Chasing the Gilded Shadow Hunter Steele (Paladin £4.50)
It’s all jolly rogering at James IV’s lascivious court. Yet in the midst of his lust-crazed nobility — and only making it more so — there is a gem of unmatched purity. Lowly born but sheltering under the regal wing, Elizabeth Manners’ shrine-like virginity, protected by Royal Decree even after her marriage to a hirsute and halitosal Borderer, incites the the realm’s priapic peers to rise at the challenge. Hilariously capturing the crudity of late-medieval machoism and skilfully exploiting the punny possibilities of pseudo- Shakespearean argot, this is a racy, not to mention cocksure , romp. (Rosemary Goring)
o The Tumlng Point Klaus Mann (Serpent’s Tail £9.95) Klaus Mann
was an exile long beforse his actual physical removal from Nazi Germany. His long wanderings in early manhood through Europe, America and the Far East were undertaken with barely a sidewards glance at the reality of poverty and degradation from which his privileged background shielded him. His exile from reality is only terminated by the actuality of
Fascism’s iron boot that spurs him into action and his autobiography away from inane metaphysics and recollections of meetings with the literati. These descriptions of the exile community‘s struggle against tyranny together with early passages about his idyllic childhood never quite compensate for the middle section‘s self-indulgent ramblings. (Alan Rice)
OPENING BOOKS ON THE BOOKER
Taking the biscuit and the £5,000 McVitie’s prize fortheir ‘Scottish Writer of the Year’ when it’s announced on 30 Nov, St Andrews Day, will be one of the following: John Byrne, for the screen play of ‘Tutti Frutti’; James Kellman for his collection of short stories ‘Greyhound for Breaktast’; Frank Kuppner for his collection of poems ‘The Intelligent Observation of Naked Women’; Allan Massie for his historical novel ‘Augustus’; Peter McDougalI for his screenplay ‘Shoot for the Sun’ and David Thomson for his memoir ‘Nairn in Darkness and Light'. It is a pick and mix assortment and The List’s favourite, scientifically selected by sticking in a pin, is ‘Tutti Frutti’.
A month before the McVitie winner is chosen on 29 October, the Booker Prize judges award £15,000 to the author of one of the six novels ‘Circles of Deceit’ by Nina Bawden (Macmillan, £9.95); ‘Anthills ol the Savannah' by Chinna Actebe (Heinemann, £10.95); ‘The Colour of Blood’ by Brian Moore (Cape, £10.95), ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively (Andre Deutsch, £9.95) and ‘The Book and the Brotherhood’ by former winner Iris Murdoch. Put your pennies on Brian Moore's ‘The Colour of Blood'
Alan Taylor comes clean about his life behind, and in, bars.
leather patching will help then. It’s very depressing.
Apropos gangrene, Gerald DeSparate , Cherry’s probation ofﬁcer, has dropped me a line from his country retreat at Cockaleg, Perthshire, having read that the boy’s been running amok in the Good Food Guide. I suppose he thought he was still on a rooftop in Peterhead topping up his tan. I never visit him there. Can you blame me? I know you won’t believe me but I’ve only been in the clink twice, each time on what you might call social visits. The ﬁrst was when I was a schoolboy. We used to play a borstal
at football, once or twice a year. Usually they came to us but I remember going there and being pelted with soap in the showers. Sounds like one of Cynthia Payne’s luncheon voucher parties. During the game I tripped their inside right as he was about to score. The ref gave a penalty. Since we were streets ahead no one bothered much but as we lined up along the box someone whispered in my ear. ‘If he misses, you’re chibbed.’ I prayed hard for him to score and incontinence threatened when he hit the post. Luckily, he scrambled the rebound over the line. On the bus home our
for no better reason than the fact that Allan Massie, The Scotsman’s lead fiction reviewer and one of the live judges, admitted in a recent review that it was the best book he’d read all year.
bandy-legged fullback (now a bandy-legged insurance salesman) said it was he who’d put the frightners on me ‘for a giggle.’
It was a short life sentence before I was inside again. Every year the residents of Saughton put on a Christmas concert. My wife was sent a couple of invites, having got friendly with a sailor who’d woken in the middle of the night and for no other reason than the fact that she was there strangled the woman who’d been singing ‘For Those in Trouble on the Sea’ every Sunday for him. There was an audience the Lyceum couldn’t rent and we all sat glued to our seats for the best part of three hours. There was no option. And no interval. The programme was a cocktail of Porridge-like sketches depicting inebriate Glaswegians who thought the easiest way to obtain a colour television was by throwing empty bottles of Lanlic through Curry’s window, and singers whose repertoire was conﬁned —- so it seemed at the time — to the San Quentin Prison blues. It was the best
night’s entertainment I’d had for yonks.
52 The List 16 — 29 October