1968: A Student Generation in Revolt Ronald Fraser (Chatto a.- Windus £12.95) In this book. the Sixties are revisited via the testimony ol‘student activists of the era in six western democracies. viz. USA. West Germany. France. Britain. Italy. and Northern Ireland. Asa student contemporary of many of the contributors in this work. reading some of their reminiscences brings back that decade to me in much the same way I might recall the excesses and antics of a wild party. Prompted by such pithy rhetoric as. ‘Fuck this immutable society that refuses to consider the misery. poverty. inequality. and injustice it creates. that divides people according to their originsand skills!’
lam transported back to the Central Belt circa ‘68— I see purple interiors with lurid posters. I smell a cloying cocktail ofjoss-stick. dope and patchouli. I hear the wail of an interminable guitar solo. the flap of bellbottoms and talk of revolution.
Nothing in this book leads me to believe that my pseudo counter-cultural lifestyle was in any way untypical of many students at that time. And though I am aware that the media. instigated by the establishment’s fear of the student phenomenon. strove to promote loathing ofit by concentrating on the superficial and sensational. it is a great pity that students themselves unwittingly supplied them with so much ammunition.
This trivialization of the student movement by both sides unfortunately detracts from the brave accounts of those who put their future livelihoods. even their lives. on the line through activities inspired by their belief in social justice.
As for the author‘s claim that this work is a comparative study. there seems little evidence other than the apparently haphazard. often confusing geographical breakdown that accompanies the chronology — much more illuminating. however. is the way in which the origins. connections. and progression of the student movement are traced. from
the Civil Rights campaign in the
L'SA to the galvanizing force of the Vietnam war. following through to the emergence of the Women’s and the Ecology movements.
Despite the great groundswell of student political activity during the Sixties it is admitted that few concrete results were achieved; in his search for significance the author focuses rather on its less ‘tangible' successes such as the raising ofthe public's consciousness in relation to social issues and especially its attitude to authority.
Now two decades on. into the age of austerity and new barbarism. the voices at the end ofthe book are softer. sadder but ever hopeful. For
_ nAzon-gooso POET
In The Kibble Palace, New and selected poems by Stewart Conn (Bloodaxe
£5.95). Some poets, says Conn, erect ediiices, then with ice pick and pitons do a dance on the sheer lace. In The Kibble Palace, a collection oi his work both known and new, shows no glimmer oi exhibitionism, no linguistic pyrotechnics or literary trapeze acts to stun or impress. Its strength lies, instead, in simplicity.
ln language as easy as the spoken word, smooth to the grasp like a sea-worn pebble, he writes as it tor a private listener alone. With a vivid sense oi nature and the wild, and oi man's puny place in the awesome order at things, Conn probes the raw edges oi iear, chips crusted emotions loose and, out of ordinariness, extracts disturbing echoes oi past and future. Not even a visit to the hairdresser ls saie irom his iaintly sinistertouch, but there‘s humourtoo, as with the Elephant Girl: ‘the usual tastes, what do you mean? The leather gear’s tor the act, see . . .’
Drawn mainly irom his boyhood Ayrshire, later home oi Glasgow and the loneliest corners oi Scotland, this is an assured and skiliul collection, sharp with the voice oi a writer who, shadowed by a sense oi time escaping, takes the banal and sharpens it into a gutting kniie. (Rosemary Goring)
them the party may be over but their celebratory spirit lives on. (Fay Hall)
LAST WORDS 0N WOBEGON
Leaving Home Garrison Keillor (Faber & Faber £9.95) Lake Wobegon. Minnesota. is a cabbage-patch dreamland. the small town where ‘all the women are strong. the men are good looking. and all the children are above average.‘ Its citizens stand permanently primed against Communism — that Vesuvius of sin — and firm-jawed in the face of gambling. dancing. hard liquor. smoking and fornication. As they salute their Statue ofthe Unknown Norwegian. or chinwag in the Chatterbox Cafe. they are protected by their canon of deadly virtues; caution. hope and finally. stoicism are among their chart-topping evergreens.
But they are redeemed by Mr Keillor‘s way with words. syllables which pour like honey off a spoon as they spin skeins ofgolden light into the substance of these thirty-six tales — slices of life spiked with ginger and so sharply observed that they bring winces and smiles of recognition on every page.
As they head for the church ofOur Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. or into the heart-attack terrain of middle age. these Wobegonians sense and reﬂect the message: ‘Nothing endures‘. a cry which is in the heartbeat ofthese tales. Read them soon. (Tom Adair)
SEDUCTIVE AND SHAKESPEAREAN
Mysell and Michael lnnesJ. I. M. Stewart (Gollancz £12.95). Sir Rupert Hart-Davis told George Lyttelton in the famous correspondence that Michael Innes wrote detective stories ‘to educate his large family.‘ But there is much more to it than that. Innes (or his alter ego. J. I. M. Stewart) obviously enjoyed writing them and one can hear the chuckles as he taps his keyboard.
Merely to say that Stewart/Innes writes well is surely meiosis or litotes to the nth degree. He is a craftsman in words and the cadence of his sentences falls seductively on the car. He is also very readable. His scholarship. though not obtrusive. is clearly there. He mentions in this volume that the most eminent Shakespearean scholar ofthe time had read his book Hamlet, Revenge! again and again. submitting it to ‘the same kind ofscrutiny he gave to the variants ofthe first quarto of King Lear.‘ And the dramatic piece ‘Mr W.H.‘. which he wrote for the Third Programme (included in this volume). should be required reading for students of Shakespeare‘s Sonnets.
The final story in this book, ‘Sweets from a Stranger‘. J.I.M.‘s favourite. not only tells a lot about the Edinburgh of his boyhood. but
not a little about the author. Like the rest ofthis delightful book it is highly recommended. (Sandy Hodge)
IGNORING THE FALKLANDS SUBTEXT
The Land That Lost Its Heroes Jimmy Burns (Bloomsbury £5.95) Burns‘ book adequately surveys the Argentinian background and repercussions of the Falklands conﬂict without ever becoming as exciting as the endorsements emblazoning the cover predict. It is at its most entertaining when exposing the idiocies of British and Argentinian jingoism. telling ofthe Daily Express reporter who brought each press conference in Buenos Aires to a noisy. undignified halt by insisting on referring to the islands as the ‘Falklands' and of the mass rallies ofpogoing Argentinians singing. ‘Ifyou don‘t jump you’re an Englishman‘. It. however. insists too much on Mrs Thatcher’s contribution to democratizing Argentina and hardly mentions the economic factors that were the real sub-text to the struggle. In the final pages we hearofthe 199] review of the Antarctic Treaty which will make British possession of territories in the region essential for her claims to the vast untapped natural resources there.
This virtual postscript for Burns is actually the essential fact. his inability to recognise this ultimately undermines the whole book.
BATTLING WITH WORDS
All The Little Wars Florence Turner (Hamish Hamilton £10.95). Opening this collection ofstories is like dipping into a stamp album. Each tale has a place to tell of. each place a different date. whether it‘s Colorado in the Prohibition Era. Manhattan 1962 or Singapore in the late l93()s. And. as with first editions. each story is smudged with ink. foreign glamour lost beneath a tarnish ofrealism.
Despite their diversity. two themes run through these pieces. The first. the darkening of innocence as adult affairs and emotions encroach on childhood. is seen in Incident/It Lima Junction. when an acquaintance‘s sudden death casts a sinister pall over the privileged comfort ofthree upper class children. while The Long Afternoon captures a heat-shimmering moment in early adolescence where desire and childishness mingle. and nothing will ever be quite the same again.
Sexuality. both unfurling and frustrated. is Ms Turner‘s second string. treated with the sympathy and humour that colour all her stories. Aiming at atmosphere without frills. however. the deliberate ordinariness of her style begins to dull the material. and while she competently creates character and unlocks intriguing alien worlds. Ms Turner‘s tales emerge like nuggets newly sifted from silt. but as yet unpolished. (Rosemary Goring)
A? The. I .ist 22 Jan — 4 Feb 1988