Balthasar and Blimunda Jose Saramago (Jonathan ('ape £11.95) Flying in the Iberian Peninsula in the l7tltls was only a matter of

willpower. While horses remained harnessed to terra firma. a

Brazilian-born priest. Padre Bartolemeu l.ourenco. of heretical and mechanical turn of mind. flirted with the lnquisition's flames and created a bird-like machine. run magically on stolen wills. l.'nderstandably. when it took to the air. it was mistaken for the Holy (ihost.

In a novel as piecemeal as its peasants' plots. Saramago focuses on nothing and everything. In part a social inventory of a still medieval Portugal. and a sticky under-quilt

‘I creep out

atthe dead of night

to steal men‘s underpants

which I wear— under my tweed skirt.‘ (Caroline Claxton ‘Lesbian‘)

Christine McEwan is concerned to dispel stereotypical images of lesbians. As editor of an anthology of lesbian poetry, Naming the Waves, she has worked to emphasise differences, to open out the experience of being a lesbian. ‘Before this Clause 27/28/29 business, my whole hope was thatthis book would be a library book, on the shelves, available to young lesbians or feminists who didn‘t quite know where they were. It would say, ‘Hey look, I‘m a lesbian and this is how wide “lesbian” can be.‘ It doesn‘tjust mean a pink triangle on a rally or a man‘s hat. It can mean many things.‘

Seventy-five British and American poets are represented in the collection and their work ranges over a broad spectrum of topics, forms and styles. ‘The idea that people have in their heads when they hear “lesbian poetry" is basically crotch poetry. The definition of lesbian poetry is a love poem—a sonnet to the juices almost— equivalent to ‘praise to the phallus‘ poems. My aim from the start wasto have poems as much about everything else as about that. I wanted poems

' ARTFUL ooooes

: come to Britain to pursue his career

exploration of its Royalty's private life. this is also an unusual love story of a one-handed soldier. Balthasar. who hooks the lovely Blimunda. a psychic with particularly penetrating insight. Adding a striking guest appearance. and a (iolding touch in his description of a convent‘s laborious construction. Sararnago interweaves the paranormal with 18th century dirty realism. His success is mixed and while something may have been lost in translation. it still leaves a good deal to digest. (Rosemary (ioring)

Hokusai‘s Wave Kenneth (iraham ((‘hatto ck Windus £1 1.95) leisure what's that to build a life around‘." asks a cynical politician in llukusui's ll'ui'e. But lives are increasingly

being built around it. and now here is a novel about arts administration. Australian media-man (‘airns has

and his anguished relationship with a community arts worker. 'l'heir


*v‘ - f1

~ . r g... 1 J; ». Q\ t "v: affix-.3)“. . . .52.!» . .‘jéx‘. )izea.

which were about the world, about motherhood, friendship, work, politics, housing.‘

The result covers poems from American, Indian, black, Jewish and tat perspectives. ‘If you claim that first lesbian identity, it makes it easierto claim other identities— to know how to find pride inthem.‘

The lamiliar(but nonetheless

so The [is-iutm—ll April 1988

. -_ isn‘rmléi " conflicts therefore cover everything from fidelity to the role of the Arts ('ouncil; but because (aims is ‘a real macho bastard underneath all that agonising‘ his mid-life crises don’t command much sympathy.

As for the supposed analysis of British society. all that’s offered are detached observations (and cliches about Scotland) without any real insight or commitment. The novel is impeccably written. but its author must face the same criticism as his hero: ‘You've got the words. . . (but) you‘re just decorating and word-spinning and running away from things.‘ (Elizabeth Burns)


There for Remembrance John Buchan (Buchan & [inright £9.95) 'l‘his book. about six of his friends who were killed in the (ireat War. reveals more about John Buchan than any other he wrote. It discloses something of the intensity of his inner feelings particularly as regards two important periods of his life at Oxford and during the (ireat War.

Arriving at the L'niversity as an undergraduate aged 20. after a somewhat cloistered youth. there was for Buchan a magic about ()xford. which included friends he made there. and which lasted all his life. And he followed l)rJohnson's dictum. so that when the (ireat \Var came. these friendships had been kept in constant repair. ()fthe six friends mentioned in this book he

valuable) ‘recovery‘ poems, whereby a

sense of pride in selfhood pushes aside the pain of past abuse, are also present. So too are erotic love poems. As lesbians have generally remained quieton the sexual front, in fearof men projecting their sexual fantasies on them, why this recent change? ‘The way one‘s getting treated right now, you’re not going to gain anything by keeping your truth for your lover‘s ear. We have to show all sides of who we are, and get all those sides respected. If we say, “We‘re human beings, and this is who we are in our lovemaking, ourwork, ourchildcare", we get to be real and we cease to be useful to their nasty salubrious fantasies.‘

Christine McEwan is not worried by the shelf-confinement that the label ‘lesbian’ will bring. ‘I thinkthere‘s a stage of self-definition which is in some ways a stage of separatism. I would hope that the next generation has enough acceptance so that it meets up again. lknowthatcalling it “lesbian poetry“ is going to shut doors. But I’d like the book to be whatever people need itto be. All thingsto all women. I sort of expect men not to think much of it, but I’d love to be surprised.‘

Naming the Waves is edited by Christine McEwan and published by Virago at £5.95. (Kristina Woolnough)

« -_ .. -4; xx e , 6\ .J .7.._ mf’é}i.‘jivl“ x"‘- {a 6.5 »“’-£;‘ .~:;.~§E‘Xr*r¢-ir£‘«’rs2?r5=13?"ch .1533?

met three at Uxtord.

()wing to ill-health Buchan was never accepted for active service at the Front. Because of this he seems to consider that his contribution to the war effort was much less than that of his friends who were killed. Buchan was a romantic and he felt this deeply and in the private edition

ofthis memoir (elegant letterpress.

hand-made paper. original photographs each hand-glued. binding by ‘the foremost bookbinder ofherday'. and the writing itself) he spared no effort in erecting a worthy memorial to the six who fell. Although part of the book was included in Buchan's autobigraphy.

L Memory l lold-the-l)oor. there was

not enough to give its flavour and to

come across it for the first time is a

revelation. (Sandy l lodge)


A Far Cry From Kensington Muriel Spark ((‘onstable {9.95) ‘l was still young. in my twenties. and everyone treated me like a matronly goddess

of wisdom.' (iargantuan size had a

lot to do with Mrs l lawkins' popularity. An iron-nerved widow who braves the post-war London publishing scene as land-girl turned editor. she is employed first with L'llswater Press. a firm nosediving

into financial ruin. then with a house

ofeccentrics. a sanctuary for social misfits where ’a movement of authors‘ is predicted whenever there‘s a full moon. A forthright sort who lards her narrative with gratuitous advice on how to diet or look for a job. the elephantine editor mortally snubs one of the literati's most tenacious leeches. llector

Bartlett. by telling him straight and

repeatedly that he is a pisseur de copie. Though this loses her two

jobs. she remains unrepentant until

the wicked Bartlett‘s coils spread

: through the boarding house where

Mrs l lawkins lives. and begin to tighten around Wanda. a neurotic Polish emigree who rashly dabbles in radionics.

For all its Sparkian cynicism. humour. and some sharp comic scenes. .‘l [Var ( 'ry From Ix'c'nsingmn is disappointingly flat-footed. its thriller-line insubstantial and its profusion of idiosyncratic characters somewhat pointless and unconvincing. After a promising start. it is an increasingly lightweight novel. with Mrs l l. starving herselfin half while evil. orthodoxy and plain commonsense wash through the text. far more unexcitingly than they need. (RosemaryUoring)


At the Still Point Mary Benson (Virago £4.5(l) Mary Benson focuses on South Africa; repression. political commitment and personal loyalty. with the eye ofa journalist. ’l‘hough at first it may not seem particularly original. especially in the light of Attenborough's latest epic. this is in fact the first LJK paperback of a novel first published in 196-1. A sensitive and highly