I ContinentJim Crace (Picador £2.95) Continent is a novel made of seven self-contained stories exploring exploitation: how the West has, for example, given the Third World the dubious gifts of technology, bought up its people’s art and made films of their lifestyles. Crace details the inherent ironies in these situations, and to this extent Continent is a political novel. Nothing is overt, however. Interpretation is left to the reader, which is, preSumably, why the book has endeared itself to prize-awarders who can congratulate not only Crace but themselves as intellectual consumer. Continent is clever, dry, faultlessly written. Yet, suitably cool for these post-modern times, it lacks any passion or emotion, and though the structure is exploratory it is hardly daring. The stories to be read in any order are fine in themselves, but ultimately it seems as if they are circling round a heartless void. (Elizabeth Burns)

I One in Four Michael Kustow (Chatto & Windus £12.95) This is a year in the life of Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for the Arts. It is intelligently written and makes for absorbing reading; a fascinating insight into not only the workings of C4 but also the role of the Arts on television. It is a book full of incident and shameless name-drOpping and you quickly realise that the dinners ‘at the Caprice with Jeremy and Tamara’ are an essential part of the job.

Kustow’s dedication to C4’s distinctive and innovative voice comes through strongly. As a former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts he has an obvious deep commitment to the avant garde which he has promoted in Channel 4’s output. J uggling airtime, budgets and temperamental independent production company personnel cannot be easy. If the book wanes three-quarters of the way through, its diary format invites skipping. Eyes alight on references to such programmes as Dancelines, State of the Art, the Harrison Birtwhistle season and Tony Palmer’s film of Shostakovich. (Laurie Maguire)

0 Edinburgh Divided: John Cormecir

and No Popery In the 1930: Tom Gallagher (Polygon £9.95). Half a century ago Edinburgh was torn by

religious unrest stirred up by a

persuasive street orator, John

Cormack. This self-made man

founded the Protestant Action Party with the aim of ‘reclaiming Edinburgh for John Knox’. Pre-War gains in the local polling booths were shortlived. A movement based on purely negative, anti-Catholic ideas failed to agree on a broader programme of policies. Internal scandals and the war also contributed to PA’s demise. Finally Gallagher recounts the incredible transformation of Cormack from a religious bigot into a respectable baillie. This scholarly account of Edinburgh’s recent anti-Catholic movement, the first in-depth study of the city’s local politics, is based on documentary and oral evidence. (Nicholas Whitehead)

o Meggie’s Journeys Margaret D’Ambrosio (Polygon £4.95). Meggie’s Journeys takes place in the Celtic otherworld, laced with ‘swirling twilight mists’. On the eve of the four seasonal festivals Meggie explores the four elements of earth, air, fire and water, learns of her own powers and eventually of her destiny as a facet of the Great Goddess. Reminiscent of Smith of Wootton Major, the Journeys lack Tolkien’s concise and timeless simplicity, yet are too constricting for Ms D’Ambrosio’s wealth of Gravesian imagery and evocative language. The result is a kind of Celtic hotcTi-potch in which the seasons come round too quickly for comfort and with no room for effective

In —‘Shades oi Grey: Glasgow 1956-87’ (Mainstream £12.95) William Mcllvanney provides a pungent introduction to a collection oi photographs taken over three decades by Oscar Marzaroil. Many are iamiliar ior Marzaroli is the city's most intormed chronicler, invariably

compassionate, humorous and

N . 1 r; i" . .


characterization. Celtic fantasy fans may enjoy it. (Chris Ashley)


I Being and Becoming James Kotsilibas-Davis and Myrna Loy (Bloomsbury £14.95) In the l930s when Clark Gable was crowned King of Hollywood. Myrna Loy was voted Queen. A red-headed. snub-nosed actress and comedienne of great accomplishment she made her film debut in 1925 and appears to have worked with everyone of import from Rin Tin Tin and Al Jolson to Paul Newman. Spencer Tracy and John Barrymore. Who can forget her delicious performances opposite William Powell in The Thin Man series or her string of ‘perfect wife’ roles that culminated with the classic Best Years Of Our Lives '.’

Myrna Loy is one of the most sparkling and private of the remaining Hollywood Greats and much more besides as this attractive volume reveals. An intelligent. witty. forward-looking woman. she has constantly championed the underdog. giving unstintingly of herself in public service for the Red Cross and the United Nations and campaigned vigorously for Presidential candidates like Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.

This chatty. level-headed book of memoirs quickly makes the reader a friend and offers an invauable testimony of her life and times and provides the unvarnished personal truth about the likes of Rudolph Valentino. Joan Crawford and her bitter experiences of Ronald Reagan. A wholly admirable woman and a delightful book. (Allan Hunter)

I The Beautiful Room is Empty Edmund White (Picador £9.95) White's sequel to A Boy ’5 Own Story follows his unnamed narrator from a point in the 1950s when the ‘three

A ., ‘3 , it? 4’ 1 e V. {.,'. a

interesting, and always on hand to catch the old tailing down and the new going up. Neither he nor Mciivanney are impressed by the marketing men's hype and both preier the honesty of poverty to the illusion oi prosperity. But their love oi Glasgow is conspicuous on every page at this seamless collaboration. (A.T.)

most heinous crimes known to man were Communism. heroin addiction and homosexuality' to the watershed ofgay liberation in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Moving from the stifling sexual and social backwaters of the mid-West to the University of Michigan and. ultimately. New York. the book is an impeccably well-observed voyage of self-discovery as White clear-sightedly captures the self-doubt. arrogance. zest. dejection and multitudinous contradictions of a young man tentatively exploring his own personality and the wider world.

Escaping a stolid childhood. the protagonist swirls into bohemian raptures about his friendship with painter Maria. is exhilarated by the unleashing of his sexual energies at college and grows less guilt-ridden as self-confidence allows him to love himselfand others. including ex—addict and advertising copywriter Lou.

Whilst allowing the reader to share in the joys and anxieties ofan individual as he changes and grows throughout the narrative. White's book is also a valuable insight into the universal highs and traumas of gay life Before Stonewall. Acuter observed and deeply felt. his writing paints uniquely expressive pictures that stimulate and satisfy the reader's imaginative inner eye and has a style of such originality and economy that he readily merits Lou‘s praise of Ezra Pound ‘never a bad line‘. A perceptive. beautifully composed novel that may prove to be one of the year‘s finest.

(Allan Hunter)

I For Love and Money Jonathan Raban (Collins Harvill£11.5i))

In 1969 Jonathan Raban. echoing Larkin. said ‘stuff your pension’ and flung in a lecturing job at the University of East Anglia to devote himselfto writing. He has been hacking away at it ever since. This rucksack of reviews. introductions. feature journalism and truant stabs at autobiography at first seems as homogeneous as flotsam but it has rightly been proclaimed the Eighties' heir to Cyril Connolly‘s Enemies of Promise. Raban confesses to have fallen foul of all but one of Connolly's man-traps the dreaded pram in the hall and he makes much ofthe writer‘s lot; the cheques in the post. the blocks. the fickle literary marketplace. The tone.

however. is quietly sardonic not

self-pitying and he writes well about writing and other writers. But he is at his best when on the move. whether in Florida or enduring the purgatory of Christmas in Bournemouth. Like no other contemporary writer he has the ability to blur the border between what passes for fact and fiction, particularly when it comes to travel-writing, the genre in which he excels. And though he likes to wag his finger he never forgets that the principle duty of a writer is to entertain which he does here enviably. (Alan Taylor)

42 The List 8 - 21 January 1988