nurse her grandson back to health, and to keep his illness a secret. The squalor and suspense endured by a woman caring for a sick child are detailed by Chedid in a simple , often lyrical language, and throughout the story, the ﬂowing of the Nile parallels the rhythmic, compulsive movement of the novel to its climax. The Sixth Day has the qualities of a myth and as such it is disturbingly relevant in the age of AIDS. (Elizabeth Burns)
0 Weaveworld Clive Barker (Collins £10.95) Ovcrlcaping more mundane sci-fi genre. Weaveworld bears- like Paddington lost at the station - a large label: ‘an epic of the imagination.’ Unusually it is both an extremely readable novel and one which draws on many literary theories ofthe imagination. Barker’s imaginary world is akin to William Blake’s and equally reliant on the invention of new words and names to give substance to his fictional world. The Seerkind populate this dream-world-made-real; the Cuckoos (we ignorant humans) are so blind they cannot see the visionary glories proffered by their enlightened Seer peers, even when they’re sprouting in technicolour from their own heads.
Threatened, the Seerkind have woven themselves into a carpet. Two hapless Cuckoos, Suzanna and Cal, e quest to save
It’s one of those wonderful dreich Sundays; so grey, so damp, so bloody miserable there’s no danger of having to tog up and take a walk. Everyone is digging in for winter now. Last week I had the misfortune to catch a DIY programme in which two wallies were showing off battery-operated socks, designed to help keep your footsies warm as toast. They were sitting in front of an aluminium screen which guarantees that the heat from the ﬁre is reflected on to your back. Viewers were petitioned to construct one for aged aunts threatened by hypothermia; all that was needed were some bits of hardboard and rolls of tin foil. Heaven knows what El Tel Conran would think of that. Then I saw an ad in the New Yorker for a personal sauna. It looks like a sleeping bag with elephantiasis and costs $299.95. The person in it had turned intoa prune. Someone raised the pr ctical problem of what one should if the front-door bell rings. Pretend you’re not in and sweat it out, I suppose. But it’s probably very handy for the likes of Steve Cauthen, the new champion jockey, whose idea of celebrating is rolling Diet Pepsi around in his mouth and then spitting it out into a basin. Is all the
Because the race for the jockey championship was neck and neck both Pat Eddery and Cauthen made a rare visit to Musselburgh a couple
: ~ . ;v '~ v r ‘ L,~,,-.,';S_§ht:.m
self-denial worth it, one asks oneself.
their superiors from extinction. They encounter vaporous and grotesque hags and struggle with the Salesman who, Mephistophelesolike, sweeps aside all those who stand in the way of his meglomania by ‘selling’ them the fulfilment of their desires. Weaveworld is a rich and cunning book but it does have one of those irritating non-endings which sweeps the rug from under your feet. Hollywood will no doubt hoover up the film rights. (Kristina Woolnough)
O Sepulchre James Herbert (Hodder and Stoughton £10.95) There is an Irishman, an Englishman and a problem with bondage; the latter is emphasised by literary telepathy through the moanings and writhings of pivotal Cora; there are lots of pages and big print. Of course there is also diabolical mystery and even worse liberties are taken with the horror genre. But, I took this book on holiday with myself (such is the way hero Haloran muses with himself) and it has come back read and relished. Never mind the begrudgers who say it is ‘only’ a ‘bestseller’. It deserves to be. It is a well processed story with no demands on anything sensible apart from credulity and some ethnic credibility. (Hayden Murphy)
0 Vina-Slums Saga John McKinnell trans. (Canongate £5.95) To both novice and expert this new
my» run».- x.~l‘:r*..,..&. :sw:f .. =
translation of Viga-Glums has much to offer: a tale of 10th century skulduggery, power and revenge, racily told (insofar as 14th century Norse permits). Stumbling blocks in the text are disposed of in the footnotes, while broader matters are discussed in an introduction that’s readable and concise yet comprehensive. Complete with maps, genealogies, bibliography and two related short stories, this is an attractive, uncluttered package. (Chris Ashley)
0 The Other Voice Edited by Moira Burgess (Polygon £12.95) This is the best anthology yet of Scottish women’s prose. Its timespan is from 1808 to the present, from an extract taken from Elizabeth Hamilton’s novel The Cottagers of Glenburnie to Agnes Owens’ short story, ‘A Change of Face’. If one were to take these two examples in isolation there would not be much to shout about but in between there are some glorious stories, particularly by Muriel Spark, Jessie Kesson (’ The Gowk’ from When the Apple Ripens) and Lorna Moon. The editor has discovered and restored the undeservedly neglected, for example Violet Jacob and the Findlater sisters, and devoted a disproportionate amount of space to two long stories by Margaret Oliphant which have been well anthologised and are surely
x. if"?! 3,
I?" sixﬁiegw Gsﬁ‘x‘fgr'e.
Alan Taylor starts a new column on the problems of keeping warm in winter.
of days ago in search of winners. Everyone gravitates towards here eventually. Dick Francis said he was in Musselburgh once and I paid him back by giving him, gratis, the plot for a new thriller. It is a complex affair involving golfers and bookmakers; more than that I cannot reveal for copyright reasons. But what was Dick doing at Musselburgh when he was a jumps man while the circuit here was, until recently, as ﬂat as a model’s kneecaps. Yet another of life’s great unsolved mysteries. But the one that really plagues me I caught from an old salt in the Hole ’i th’ Wa’, a pub as famous for its apostrophes as it is for its Heavy. He said that W.C. Fields (nee Druckenfeld) had been a visitor to the Honest Toun but I was not in a retentive state at the time and I can’t remember for why or when. Neither can anyone else though everyone delights in regurgitating what Fields said when
asked why he didn’t drink water. If you don’t know, there’s precious little hope for you.
No one in London drinks water much, either because it’s too soft or too hard. It’s one or the other. I was in town for the Booker Prize do at which there was a lot of drinking, none of it water despite the ubiquitous Perrier gatecrashing everything. I was pleased Penelope Lively won, not least because she is published by those awfully nice Deutsch people, and sad that there had to be five losers. But the chap I felt most sorry for was Melvyn Bragg who barely had time to crunch the crudités before he was whisked in front of the cameras to wax laryngitical. I just hope they kept a plate in the oven for him. It was late by the time I left the Guildhall having been detained by Malcolm Bradbury and I eventually caught a minicab which took me part of my journey, the driver deciding I would
2-,, .' ‘ :"fﬁi’ .1 mt, sine-1+“. 54. .,.
y ’1‘.‘ .1,
elsewhere. Could it be that the dilemma was not what to leave out but to find credible stuffing? I see that the publishers have not been so faint-hearted and have taken the liberty to expunge Sarah Tytler’s contribution from the contents. You will find her on page 87, slight but not uninteresting, with ‘difficult’ Scots words like ‘ingan’ [onion] translated in the most obtrusive manner. (Jenni Allan) o Mojo Hand: omhlc Tale J .J . Phillips (Serpent’s Tale £5.95) There are large claims made for this book but it is not ‘the literary equivalent of the blues’; the prose is too laboured and one-dimensional to approach the quick-silver, multi-dimensionality of Blues music. It tells of Eunice a light-skinned black woman who, beguiled by the sounds emanating from talented Blacksnake Brown, seeks to follow him through low-life Afro-America. Its gritty realism undermines the romantic view of black squalor propagated by white writers like Kerouac but in doing so tries too hard to articulate a definitive Blues voice, allowing lyrics to interrupt the narrative’s ﬂow, rather than become an integral, complementary part of it. Blues creation at its most effective sounds effortless; here the seams show and Mojo Hand never really catches the beauty of the music it describes. (Alan Rice)
‘Watch out for muggers’, were his parting words as he revved off.
Such a friendly place, London. All over, trees have been uprooted, walls demolished, lampposts bent. The storm, pronounced an emigre Scot, was the judgement of God, an eye for an eye, but still a poor substitute for the bi-annual invasion of the Tartan Army. On the train home there was a debate about how many of Sevenoaks’ oaks had keeled over and whether or not the place would have to have a change of name. Oneoaks doesn’t have quite the same ring. There was a girl aboard who knew everything about anything, whose boyfriend was ‘in oil’ but who had aspirations in aerobics. Two American youths studying (psychiatry?) at Stirling hung on her every word and when she started badmouthing the Germans - for being fat, boorish and appearing stitchless on Yugoslav beaches. Yankee Doodle Dandy produced a taperecorder and she repeated it all happily. After Berwick he read questions from a quizbook. ‘For a million dollars would you walk naked down the main street of your hometown?’ First she said ‘no’, then said she might, depending on who was asking. The American said he was. She said she
was an Aberdonian and Union Street was awfully long but as long as it wasn’t a Saturday she might consider it. It was time to explore the buffet.
50 The List 13 — 26 November 1987