Prey by Josephine Bell: Fieldwork by Maureen Moore; Tunis/1mg .‘Tfl by Joy Mage/is; .llist‘liitffby ('harlotte A rmstrong: and Sinner/ting Shady by Sarah Dreher. I Cooper‘s Creek Alan .\loot'ehcad (Penguin £4.95 ) ( ‘ompelling. lucid account of the abortiv e and tragic attempt by two largely unsung 19th centttry explorers -— Robert (H lara Burke and William .lolm \Vills to traverse ‘the unknown mteriorofthe AUstralian continent from east to

w estf

l War and Peace in Milton Keynes .lames Rogers ( l’lamingo {3.50) All the evils of the Slls are stuffed into


this drainpipe~slim novel which has nothing to do with the ()pen l'niversity. The author‘s next book. featuring characters who spend most of their time on the phone. is eagerly anticipated by those waiting for it.

I Street Fighting Years Tariq Ali (Fontana £3.95 l ‘If you remember the Sixties. you weren't there‘. said Jerry (iarcia. But agit prop Ali was there and though he prefers to forget the mini-skirt and Mary Quant he remembers virtually everything else. particularly the political upheaval. lle glosses gloriously and enjoys his egotrip but he w rites eogently and stiittcttililltc ltititttglc is. el‘.lttl1.

Alan Taylor discourses on the nightmares. waking and otherwise. ofthe solitary scribe.

There must be better ways to spend a |

Sunday. The plan was to rise early. break the back of the day ‘s work before the cock crew. breakfast leisurely. then wrestle with the papers. instead I overslept. trapped in a nighttnare in which I found mvself fully-clothed in the shallow end of l’ortobello Baths. surrounded by the beatific laces of the newly lobotomised. the born-again brigade. all brandishing Bibles like hot irons and dressed scantily in municipal towels. At my side was an elderly man. naked but for a snorkel and a pair of Speedo trunks. holding above my head a mttg. presumably filled with salt water. embellished with the slogan. love is a sexually-transmitted disease.' At least that's what I like to think it said. For just as he was about to douse me the oldest of the enfants terrible screamed. ‘Is The Wide-Awake Club on yet'.”. saying me in the nick

of time from a singalong with (‘liff or ;

seducing bimbos like Jessica l lahn. For once the debt is mine.

Shaken and stirred I got up. spied with my little eye a murky. miserable day. bought bacon. rolls and papers. consumed same. then decided that it was time to do what a man’s got to do. after another cup oftea. It is now not quite eleven o‘clock and I'm sipping my sixth cup. 1 have studied the horizon for passing ships. sharpened innumerable pencils. polished brogues which were already gleaming like wet cobblestones. and positively identified a blackbird. chirruping in the tree outside the window. in my eight volume ornithological library.

Prevarication is the name of this game. Whole days can pass unproductiver by while I play it. I will do anything. with the possible exception ofironing. rather than duel with the naked page. (Between writing that sentence and this I've been to the window again. It's

raining. which I personally find fascinating. And just this minute two football teams have appeared on the links offering ninety minutes unabated distraction.)

Sometimes. when verbally constipated. l consult the books around me in the hope of finding a laxative. In one. Philip Roth confesses that he once sat at his desk for eight hours a day for six months and produced one page. In another. (iore \r'idal claims never to have suffered frotn the dreaded block. ‘First coffee .' he says. ‘Then a bowel movement. Then the muse joins me.’ Must be espresso. But I like best (iarrison Keillor’s anecdote about the fat boy w ho spent most of a summer sitting on the front steps of a house. puffing cigarettes. drinking pop. while Keillor tore his hair out working on a novel. After three months he decided. ‘there is no difference between a fat boy lounging on the steps and a man at a typewriter turning out horseshit writing.‘ These are the wisest words I‘ve read in a long time.

But what I was going to do before I was waylaid was tell you about my back. The List. you may be surprised to hear. has been inttndated with (iet Lost cards since the last painful transmission ofthis ()riental Life. As far as I can tell. I'm cured. In the past fortnight I have been X-rayed in degrading circumstances. the thought of which only time will heal prodded. drugged. fallen down an escalator with a (iaelic poet. been suffocated by Owen Dudley [Edwards (though he claims the vice was versa). rolled about on Arnold Brow n‘s empty bed and eaten dinner in the Sheraton. l have survived it all. The doc says it‘s not what he would haye prescribed but when I tell hitn what‘s going on at Portobello Baths he's going to have come tip with an alternative to swimming.

Booksellers since 1797


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The List l3 »- 36 May 1988 61