THE LONG AND THE SHORT LEET
That time of year is upon us again. As winter draws in. books take centre stage for end-of-literary-year prizegivings. The twenty-year old Booker Prize. now hyped from August onwards. is announced on 35 October. It has a Short List ofsix novels novelists. chosen. the five judges would have us believe. from hundreds of diligently read entries. The Prize itself. at £15000. is worth having — as are bumper book sales. This year’s contenders are (authorially alphabetical):
Oscar and Lucinda Peter (‘arey (Faber.£l0.95)
Utz Bruce (‘hatwin ((‘ape £9.95) The Beginning of Spring Penelope Fitzgerald ((‘ollins £10.95)
Nice Work David Lodge (Seeker £10.95)
The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie (Vikirig£12.95)
The Lost Father Marina Warner ((‘hatto £1 1.95)
The 5000 McVitie's Prize has a Short Leet for its Scottish Writer of the Year Competition. From the six motley writers. the panel of four judges will chose the winner and announce him her at a televised dinner on November 28th. Those in the runningare:
Annette Hope A (‘aledonian Feast (Mainstream)
Bernard MacLaverty The (ireat Profundo ((‘ape)
Edwin Mickleburgh Beyond The Frozen Sea (Bodley Ilead)
Colin Rentrew Archaeology and Language (Cape)
Ian Sellae and Christopher Hush Venus Peter
Jenny Wormald Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure ((ieorge Philip)
Two other Scottish literary awards are also imminent (to be announced at a lunch on November 1st ) — the Scotsman-sponsored Saltire Society's ‘Scottish Book of the Year' and the ‘Best First Book‘.
The List book reviewers have managed to restrain themselves from adding their prize-pennyworth. There are no arbitrary bets about winners hedged here. Of those. you‘ll no doubt hear more anon. (Kristina Woolnough)
UNIVERSITY PRODUCTION LINE
Nice Work David Lodge (Seeker £10.95). In a wild innovation. David Lodge brings us what can only be called a commercial campus novel. Very novel it is too. set partly in a redbrick university on a small
parochial island. partly in a Dante-like inferno of modern heavy industry. and cunningly linked by an analogous plot to Mrs ( iaskell’s Nor/Ii and Soul/i. Fiendish Dickensian scenes of pounding pistons and melting pig-iron flicker against the ivory cool of a university under monetary siege. The ideologically peerless heroine Robyn falls -~ despite herself— into bed with V'ic. tough iron-master. who thinks he has found love but discovers it's only another capitalist headache.
Finding occasional echoes of humour and almost comic scenarios within these hitherto hallowed institutions. Lodge has fiercely broken the mould. The only fear is that. having created a genre. he runs the risk of degenerating into self-parody. But perhaps he never will. (Rosemary (ioring)
The Beginning oi Spring Penelope Fitzgerald ((‘ollins £10.95) Penelope Fitzgerald is the most painstaking of novelists. patient with her storylines and characters. allowing them. like the snows and frosts of the Russian spring depicted here. to melt into their fictional backgrounds. producing disappearances and revelations.
To begin with. there is the departure of Nellie Reid whose unexpected exit on the Berlin train tosses a rock into the pool of domesticity of her husband Frank. a printworks proprietor in Moscow in 1913. Has she left him for a lover'.’ Have Russian ways unsettled her'.’ Frank is swiftly enfolded by the nest ofEninsh expatriates. Lisa. a nanny. is found for his children. She is beautiful. disturbingly alluring to the stoical Frank. But she's a ‘dangerous young woman‘ — a harbinger ofchange.
And change is the undercurrent
which ripples the surface of this tale. its circles widening beyond Frank‘s disruptions to embrace and reflect the subtle shifts in Russian living. the mingling ‘sounds of trams and church bells'. the simmering murmur of a future whose revolutionary shadow is already present.
Unmelodramatically. the book’s seeds ofsurprise bear fruit at its conclusion. a ripeness which satisfies and clarifies the narrative‘s demands. It is a tale which is unadorned yet resonant and compelling— Penelope Fitzgerald’s very best. (Tom Adair)
A FAMILY AFFAIR The Lost Father Marina \Varner ((‘hatto LI 1 .95). Anna. curator to the Iiphemcra archive at the Museum of Albion. is rooting up family-fable about her mother's father. Davide Pittagora. for a novel called The l)1(e/. This novel-within-a-novel. set mostly in Southern Italy. swings over the life of the said I’ittagora. who died in early middle age of unknow it causes. I Iis untimely demise is. in many respects. the symbolic heart of the book. I Iis family . now spread to America and Britain. have assembled. from vague and reported childhood memories. a mythical image which Anna uses to substantiate her ow n heroic fiction of his life. However. the real father (and gratull'ather) is irretricy ably lost to them. ('arrying the absence of fathers on to a modern scenario and into the outer wrapping. the
. divorced Anna is bringing tip her son
I’iction-mongering pulls Anna. the supposed free-thinking liberated woman. back to the naive romantic notions other Italian forebears. from this position she reconstructs the duel between Pittagora and his friend over the honour of the Pittagora sisters. And. to suit her purposes and interests. site loads her Italian heritage with an irresistible and explosive ferment of heat and lttst ~ daydream-lovers. suppressed sexuality and the supposedly benevolent patriarchal society (‘knowlcdge was not a womanly way oflife').
This is Warner's third novel and it is a fine. accomplished one mellow.
measured and holding out its surprise package to the last. (Kristina Woolnough)
In Trouble Again Redmond ()‘I Ianlon (Ilamish Hamilton £14.95). The title is spot on: Redmond ()‘I Ianlon is not someone I would accompany over a zebra crossing. Iiven James Fenton. an intrepid traveller and bard of the bearded ornithologist's madcap expedition to Borneo. gave him the thumbs down when asked if he fancied chumming him up the Orinoco. ‘I want you to know". he told ()‘I Ianlon. ‘that I would not come with you to Iliin Wyeombe.’
But rejection is water offa wildebeest‘s back to the comic explorer and eventually he enlists Simon. a four-letter fornicator. currently killing time in a London casino and making whooppee whenever and wherever. (‘ompatible he and ()‘I I are not and it comes as no surprise when he paddles off home. ditching our flea-bitten author just as he is about to confront the Yanomami. a backwater tribe as formidable as a Morningside Women's (iuild.
It all looks very black for ( )‘II and his crew of randy bearers and insufferable know-ails but we know ~ ifonly from the evidence of what's in our hands -— that he survives to tell his tale. And a tall one it turns out to be. even by ()‘I Ianlon standards. falling into that category oftravelastrophe
AUTHOR EVENTS DURING SCOTTISH BOOK FORTNIGHT
ELIZAB 3TH BLACKADDER on Wednesday 26th October at 7pm
RIKKI FULTON & GORDON MENZIES on Friday 4th November at 7pm
Glsagow's Most Stylish
AS IT WAS
Naomi .\Iitchison celebrated her ninetieth birthday in I987 and is considered one of'the foremost contributors to the literary scene.
AS IT ILLS is a new illustrated paperback edition of her first two volumes ofautobiography — SILT/.1. 'I'. “A and .-\I.l. ('II. t.\'(ili Illz'Rlz'. £5. 99 RI('II tRI)I)RI;'H r1 nus/11ml ll) ([1. t.S(i()II
The List 14 — 27 October 1988 59