0 Two Worlds David Daiches (Canongate £2.95) The distinguished literary critic and academic‘s charming memoir of life between the two wars as the son of Edinburgh’s top Rabbi.
o The Margaret Atwood Omnibus Margaret Atwood (Andre Deutsch £12.95) Three novels for the price of one from Canada’s premier novelist: The Edible Woman, Surfacing and Lady Oracle; emotional cannbalism, self realisation and sustained comedy.
0 The Best oi Hancock Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (Penguir. £3.95): Hancock’s Halt-Hour: Radio Scripts by Ray Gallon and Alan Simpson Compiled by Chris Bumstead (BBC Books £8.95) Two selections from the several hundred scripts which made the man from No 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, a legend in bedsitterland. The first includes The Missing Page, Twelve Angry Men and The Blood Donor (‘. . . a pint — why, that’s very nearly an armful’) while Bumstead complements eight scripts with background notes and fictional biographies of the luminaries who fed the great man his lines.
o Unlorgettable Fire Eamonn Dunphy (Viking £1 1 .95) The story of U2, rock band ofthe 80$, written by a man who knows well their native Dublin, its people and traditions. However, Dunphy’s minimal background in music writing puts a strain on him: he hasn’t the knack of evoking what makes their music special or handling the long process of its development. Still, this book rises above the usual rock hackography by telling you things you’d actualy like to know.
0 Eve’s Secrets Josephine Lowndes Sever (Bloomsbury) A new study of the female anatomy which seeks to fevise the currently-popular (and predominantly male) theories, founded as they are on early Western preconceptions. For committed enthusiasts only.
0 Auld Zimmery Robbie Kydd (Mariscat Press £4.95) Geriatrics and zimmers tend to be the hallmark of look-what-we’re-coming-to reﬂections and usually kill interest with Harpic efficiency. In Robbie Kydd’s first novel, set sporadically in authentic Aberdeenshire brogue, the trappings of senility become instead a vivid part of his central character’s inner landscape, the dispiriting world of rich tea biscuits and catheters an amusing foil for this rebellious spirit.
A string of shortish stories, Auld Zimmery threads eight classic life-cycle moments (as defined by sociologist Erickson), in one man’s existence, starting at the end, ending in the middle. Using various voices to weave the tale, Kydd follows Andy Robb’s life from toilet training and adolescence to fatherhood and dementia. Running steadily through Andy’s story are his compulsive scribbling and Fiona Phimister, much-loved thorn in the side, who has been his captivating if capricious focus from infancy to widowhood. Placing each story in what feels like the 1980s, Robb is seen as child and
There aren’t may novelists who can claim to have written their iirst draft on a banana boat. Liz Taylor- alias Elizabeth McNeill ior obvious reasons- is one oi the iew. ‘I wrote 65,000 words in three weeks,’ she says at her novel Shanghai Emerald, as ii it were an ordinary achievement. Conceived beiore her journey to the West Indies, the book was given birth, as it were, as she skimmed westwards into the Thomson’s brochure sunset. What she was unaware oi, as she wrote the story oi Mae de Vaucouleurs, an ice-cold and resourceful French girl, whose iortune came irom brothel-keeping, was that it was to he an unexpectedly prolonged labour, with twins at the end oi it. By publisher’s decreee another heroine and twice as many words were written in to till the book out.
An experienced joumallst and non-liction writer, Liz Taylor accepts market iorces with the same practicality she brings to the rest oi liie. ‘You can't say everything in one book,’ she says, “You have to aim at a specitlc audience.’
Framed by blue coom ceilings and shawl-draped lumlture, Liz Taylor exudes inlectious enthusiasm, energy, and a laint whiii oi Bloomsbury bohemianism. It’s not hard to understand why one other daughters detects the iinn matriarchal band in her novel. ‘Men come oii rather badly in this book,’ she says, ’I was a bit worried about that.’ But as she’s shown in her own lile, women can be strong - ‘sometlmes stronger than men,’ which is Shanghai Emerald’s iorceiul message.
The interwoven sagas oi Mae and Madelaine, two women as dilierent in character as in hair colour, the story iollows their serpentine paths, irom grim childhood days in 1930s’ Shanghai, to current times, through
adult at the same time, a dramatic and largely effective technique that gives immediacy to the character and his problems. Though Kydd’s sociological interest intrudes slightly in the later sketches, and the narrative weakens under Fiona’s telling, this is an intriguing, winsome biography sharply encapsulating Conrad’s truth that ’we live as we dream - alone’. (Rosemary Goring)
0 The Collected Stories oi Angus Wilson (Seeker & Warburg £12.95) This retrospective collection is a sheer delight, resurrecting in sharp detail the quaint-essential Englishness of the years which ﬂanked the last Great War. Depicting with merciless ear and eye the small misfortunes of both ‘proles‘ and petit-bourgeoisie, Wilson captures in diversity and depth the world of post-war Tory blues, of conchies and nurse and nanny, of the dying notes of the Last Post trailing Empire to its close.
But black comedy and satire, both
TAYLOR MADE Elisabeth McNeil!
respective careers as madame and psychiatrist. Reminiscent oi Dr Zhivago in its sweep oi passion and tragedy, China, Russia, India and America are embraced with epic llourish and at double quick speed. Liz’s inspiration, however, was not her own extensive travelling but a memory irom her years in Bombay, when she was iasinated by a lonely old French woman. Alool and majestic, she had been awarded the Legion d’Honneur, despite presiding over a brothel, ‘run like a boarding school. She used to send invitations out every year to her Christmas party-there was to be no "work" that night. . .’
Engrossed with her characters (‘When I was writing, I kept walking round comers and expecting to meet them,') they have had her, as well as her editor, in tears. Considering their iates, it’s not surprising. Though she readily admits to ‘bellevlng in romance, In the power oi love and In
miracles,’ and reiutes the suggestion J
upstairs and down, are not his only suits. Wilson’s characters are sometimes brave. embattled and affecting, both bitten and shy. He is in sympathy with outsiders. those beyond the pale: foreigners, lunatics and children - the perpetrators of unease whose presence injects a rare energy into the finest of these tales. Wilson moves through this fictional domain with assurance, his ' hush-puppy stealth contributing crucially to the ease and finality of his rapier thrusts ofwit and wordplay. He is D’Artagnan out of Cyrano de Bergerac, a doycn of English letters whose stories are as compelling as his characters are put-downable. (Tom Adair) O The Sixth Day Andree Chedid (Serpent‘s Tail £5.95) Society‘s paranoia about disease is much in evidence in the late 805. The Sith Day. first published in 1960, is about cholera, and shows the inhuman extent to which healthy people will go to ostracize carriers of an epidemic. It tells the story of an old Egyptian woman determined to
that she’s a hard-line iemlnist, there’s a steely streak oi realism both in her plot and in her attitude to lite. This book, she says, ‘is aimed at women who have thought about what it is to be a woman,’ and reject the saccharine lite-view that iantasy iiction oiten dripleeds its public.
Since her husband’s death in 1971, leaving herwith iour children and very little money, there hasn’t been much room ior iantasy in her lite. “i started writing because I had to eat,’ she explains, stripping journalism of any lingering glamour,’ though everyone said that with a degree in historyl should become a teacher.’ Descended irom a long line oi gamblers, she plunged instead into print, neverto surlace.
Branching into liction was a complete shattering oi mould, and judging irom her expression, her best break yet. ‘I absolutely love writing novels,’ she says, eyes brightening as she talks iaster. ‘lt’s marvellous, like opening another door,’ and her second novel, Lark Returning, is already completed. ‘About women bondagers in the 19th century,’ it's set in the Scottish borders, and nicely meets her publisher’s demands. At the back oi her
thoughts, though, is another story, tucked into cold storage until the time is ripe: the tale of Peter Astrolabe, ’Abelard and Heloise’s son. Nobody knows anything about him except that his mother requested a cannon ship for him.’
The Middle Ages may not be commercial, but Liz isn’t one to waste anything, least of all ideas. She grins, enjoying the novelist’s godly power. ‘l’d like to send him on the Second Crusade . . .' And chances are, she will; (Rosemary Goring)
The Shanghai Emerald is published by Century-Hutchinson at £11 .95.
The List 13 — 26 November 1987 49