INTRODUCING A MALE PERSPECTIVE
Latecomers Anita Brookncr (.Ionathan (‘apc LIIWS) Amid thc
hosannas that grcct thc annual .-\nita -
B. thct‘c is incyitably thc yoicc ol a wcc. slcckit. cowrin' - ycah - timorous critic ( thc panic olonc swimmingagainst thc tidc in his ht'castic) who suggcsls. solto yocc. that hcr rangc is not so much widc as point-blank. By this hc (and it would
bc a hc. wouldn‘t it) is alluding Io thc
fact that s‘hc writcs about singlc w'omcn ol'sulilicicnt mcans on shopping sal'aris in SW] . and not much clsc. And thc rccord th)L‘s show that shc is. indccd. at homc.
hotnc on this particular rangc. But to
paraphrasc thc cditor ol a ncw coloursupplcmcnt. originalityol' subjch mattcr is almost impossiblc to find at thc tail-cnd ol’ thc Slls: it’s not what you say that mattcrs most but thc way that you say it. And no onc. not cycn thc cowrin' critic. would dcny that Ms B. says ‘it‘ otltcr than swcctly and il‘ Lurcmmcrs wcrc to bc indulgcd in Mr its prosc alonc it would scorc high. But to stop thcrc would bc grossly to tttldct‘cslllttalc Ms B‘s aclticycmcnt in what is undoubtcdly hcr most ambitious and possibly ltcr lincst hook to datc. I.(ll('(‘(ml(’r.\‘ ls dillct'cnt l’rom llL‘l‘ prcyious hooks bccausc it conccdcs ccntrc stagc to two mcn. llartmann and I-‘ibich. unitcd by thcir sharcd backgrounds ( liast liuropcan ). pcrsonal circumstanccs (orphans and I'orcigncrs in war-torn lingland). busincss intcrcsts (grcctings cards and photocopict‘s) and l'atnilics. Iiach supports thc othcr. l‘or thcy arc complcmcntary in disposition and talcnt. and thcy prop cach othcr up
likc playing cards in a pyramid. 'I'hcir
lricndship is mirrorcd in that ol' thcir \Vchs and to a lcsscr -— much lcssct' ~
cxtcnt in thcir childrcn. But thc bond
bctwccn thc yoluptuous I lartmann and thc anxious I’ibich is what mattcrs as thc past is rctraccd and tltc luturc lcarlully laccd. 'l‘hcrc arc momcnts ol‘ hcart-brcaking poignancy. particularly whcn Ilartmann iiiccts I-'ibich al'tcr his rcturn to Bcrlin. w'hcn tcars will roll involuntarily. th it is lar cry lrom scntimcntality I‘or thcsc pcoplc arc
rcal and roundcd and thcir prohlcms
hayc no simplc solutions. (Dayid (‘rozicr)
JUGGLING IN GREENLAND
The Captain and the Enemy ( irahant (irccnc ( Rcinhardt Books I; 10.95) (irccncland. though rcdolcnt oI~
gardcn ccntrcs. is not a country hound by hcrlmccous bordcrs and
populach with Bccchgroyc gnomcs.
Rathcr it is an hollow statc of mind. pcrcnnially hot and humid. whcrc thc smcll ol' Icar lingcrs likc a wall l‘rom an uncoycrcd drain. Hcrc -- in Haiti. llayanna. Sicrrc l.conc or. as
in this gnomic noycl. Panama — ' papcr could pcrspirc and part of thc
ioy ol' rcading ( iraham (irccnc is
cxpcricncing thc yicarious scnsation
ol'swcat corrugating down your back. I-'our lincs into 'l'lic ( 'uprum lUII/I/U’ lincmy and l liclt l was glucd to my shirt. l'cw liying writcrs and not many ol thc dcar dcpartcd could writc a opcning scntcncc which
cy okcs. promiscs. tclls and scts up so
tnuch as that which (irccnc bcgins his 25th noycl. and l’or thc ncst St) or so pagcs thc grandmastcr walks a t‘ldgc olcxccllcncc.
In thcsc wc arc askcd and arc rcady
to swallow thc prcpostcrous. A
young boy in this day and agc happily
boarding school with a man who claims to hayc won him I‘rom his father in a gamc ol' hackgatnmon. (irccnc tclls it likc an old-lashioncd boys‘ story. harking back to Stcycnson. and in particular Jim
I lawkins’ ambiyalcnt acquaintancc with Long .Iohn Silycr. This part ol‘ thc noycl is situatcd in anothcr (irccncland whcrc thc w holc truth and nothing but is rcsistcd. w hcrc thc loncly liyc in Iiglitlcss bascmcnts and rclationships suryiy c likc plants without watcr.
It is w hcn Liza. thc boy 's surrogalc
mothcr. dics and hc dccidcs to track thc cponymous (‘aptain to Panama that things tcnd Io lall apart. 'I'hc
(‘aptain. convincing as a conman and
smalltitnc thicl'. will not do as an arms dcalcr I'or thc Sandinistas. .lim (as hc comcs to bc known) is ignorant bcyond crcdibility cycn tor a proyincial iournalist. and any (‘oloncl who thinks King Kong is a codc namc ought to bc shot at dawn ot' dusk. whichcycr comcs sooncsl. But (irccnc still managcs to makc a skyscrapcr out oI hall-bricks. juggling thc suspcnsc to thc cnd and kccping us gucssing as to his rcal intcntions. ls thisoncol’ his ‘cntcrtainmcnts' oran claboratc t'cligious allcgory'.’ It could bc cithcr. I think it‘s both. (Alan 'l'aylor)
JUST PUBLISHED ‘
I The Fire-Dwellers Margarct l.aurcncc (\‘irago £4.95) (‘anadian small town saga bcautil'ully articulatcd. Liz l.ochhcad pitchcs in with an cnthusiastic al‘tcrword.
I Continent .lim ('racc ( Picador
£3.95) Scycn short storics assumc an
un-\\'cstcrn landscapc and probc an imaginary contincnt ’s l‘oiblcs and traditions — among thcm ‘progrcss'
and supcrstition. 'l'hc storics arc ncat
and absorbing. chips oll and about an archaic but wcighty block.
I Sunlight on a Broken Column .-\tlia Ilosain (\'irago4.5ll) lipstick. high-hccls and cutlcry ycrsus purdah. chappcls and tradition.
I Iosain tacklcs thc tcnsion bctwccn old and ncw so prcyalcnt in India yia thc story of l.aila. orphancd daughtcr ol'a distinguishcd Muslim I'amily. An intcrcsting but lrustratingly scdatc insight into pic—partition India in which any possibility ol passion or humour has bccn sul'l'ocatcd by hcat and dttst.
I Presumed Innocent Scott 'l'urow (l’cnguin £3.99) ('ompulsiyc
courtroom drama. pas l’crry Mason.
with noycl sting in tail.
I The Real Charlotte Ii.( ).I-‘.. Somcryillc and Martin Ross (Hogarth £4.05) liqucstrian tragcdy with Irish oycrtoncs. Kcanc intro by Molly.
SEXUAL POLITICS AND POLITICAL SEX
Magda Sweetland, as she taps her artilicial sweetener into hercoltee. is as composed and elegant as her new novel, ‘The Hermitage‘. The book is emotionally sparse. a deliberate ploy
on Sweetland‘s part. ‘I wanted to write
a very masculine book— a much harder. more public book with characters who looked on public service as their prime motivation and not personal expression.‘
Hence the presence of Independent Scottish MP Watson Moncriette and actress Leonie Barr. daughter olthe Ianatical SNP campaigner Ellice Barr. Sweetland herselt. although
Scottish-born. now lives in Kent. where she deliberately involved hersell some
time ago in local politics. This now Iorms the substance at ‘The Hermitage'. ‘Some olwhat I know about local politics I transported up to Scotland and applied itto the SNP. My main concern is how the minority interests are so sadly served by the State. That was what really triggered me to write this book—the lact that there is such a groundswell oI segments who are dissatislied.‘ Proportional representation is the political solution advocated by Sweetlend and the lictional Moncriette. It tits Sweetland‘s dislike of imbalance and excess. ‘lt‘s surprising to me that the British people, the least extremist at people, seem to put up with extremism and controntation in politics. Tremendous
ellort is cancelled out bytremendous indillerence because at the rigged system at election.‘
Sweetland‘s political hobby-horse very noticeably inlorms her book. The personal is indeed secondary in importance, but the plot still relies upon it. Leonie Barr, after making an unlikely marriage to Fergus the mathematician, pursues her careerto London. She re-meets Moncriette and the expected allair eventually blossoms (and it takes a while). The couple spend much at theirtime
discussing their respective careers and
analysing the political climate. Although not everybody's idea at a good time. Sweetland Iinds her characters admirable. ‘Everybody looks alter their own in Britain today. Those I admire in the book are
public-spirited. They put duty high up in their values.‘ Intolerance ol emotional analysis
hallmarks ‘The Hermitage’. Sweetland
delends Leone's alool independence
from tamily and friends: ‘I can‘tthink at
anything more wearisome than having
a lemale lriend unburden herlove-lile on you. People shouldn‘t do it. They should keeptheirproblemsto
themselves. Leone does agonise in her
way. but she‘s not sell-indulgent. l‘m terribly hard-headed about human relationships and I will not indulge sentiment or people‘s notions about
themselves. The writer‘s role is to look
at the human race objectively and to try
and tell the truth. uncomlortable as it may be all round.‘
The drive towards a ‘masculine‘ novel includes a literal absence ol colour. ‘I tried to make a grey cityscape. I think it reinlorces the vitality ol the people.‘ It is part at a struggle against prevailing attitudes too. ‘I don‘twantto be a “woman's writer".‘ Being a woman writer. believe me, you‘re automatically cast into pulp Iiction, with no serious ideas. It‘s a most dillicult thing to be taken as a woman writer and a serious writer in the same breath.
“With hindsight. I would have
changed my name. taken a male name.
It would have been a lot easier and no one would have known — I don't think it‘s obvious in my writing what sex I am. It‘s certainly quite irrelevant as tar as I'm concerned.‘
The Hermitage is published by
'l'ltc l.isl lbr
2‘) Scptcmbc r l‘).\’.\' 7