Alan Taylor hunts out 1988‘s best and finds much on
, Liln'a is a spooky book written in
quicksand. ('himeric. it keeps a
toehold on reality by focusing on a : particular day . in a particular town.
and on a particular event. The day is l~riday 33 November. the town is Dallas. 'l‘esas. the event is the assassination of John 1’. Kennedy. l)el .illo has not attempted a
' reconstructionoltheeventsleading to Kennedy's death but his book will fascinate the bulls who have
consumed the acres of print in the
Q A BROWSER’S DOZEN
I Latecomers :\lill;1 Brookner ((‘ape £10.95) l'X’llc‘s and orphans. l'ibitch
j and l lartmann are sentenced to
lriendship (or life. though in temperament they are poles apart. few are better at delicate balancing acts than Brookner and in her eighth beguiling novel in as many years she shows that she understands the hopes. tears and neuroses of men as
Warren (‘ommittee report. who have invested in shelfloads of speculative books and who have videoed the documentaries.
As do all books concerned with the Kennedy killing. Libra posits theories and Del .illo‘s hold water better than most. But where he really scores is in his analysis of a society in which conspiracy is endemic. in which misguided. malevolent malcontents feel they have a right to change the course of
well as women.
I Baumgartner's Bombay Anita Desai (lleinetnann £10.95) After ﬂeeing from the Brownshirts in Berlin dryrotting Baumgartner settles in Bombay where he sticks out like pasta spirals in a curry. ‘A man without a family or a country‘ he lives in a tip with cats for company while Lotte. an obese opera singer. offers sexual solace. Suffused with melancholy but blue-veined with
JOHN SMITH & SON
(GLASGOW) LTD 57 St. Vincent Street. Glasgow, G2 5TB.
Scotland. Tel 041-221 7472.
Thursday lst December
author of the
Collins Gem Wine Guide will be conducting a
Thursday 8th December
Launch of Glasgow Pub and
history when it‘s notigoing th‘ir way. l.'sing characters real and -
imagined. he has created a book that
operates on at least three levels.
humour. this is vintage l)esai: dextrous. clear and pungent. I The Swimming-Pool Library Alan llollinghurst((‘hatto£1l.95)'1'he gay old days recalled in a priapic. pre-Aids romp most of which is spent in the showers of the pool of a gentlemen's club. Linapologetically and explicitly promiscuous. it marks the emergence of a candid. confident ' novelist with the poise if not the tenderness of Edmund White.
I Ellen Foster Kaye (iibbons ((‘ape £9.95) Bijou novel. kowtowing to (‘atcher in the Rye. that tells the tale — in her own appealing voice —r of the eponymous heroine. a 'l'exan orphan. whose sense of humour and lack of self-consciousness provide the basis for survival in a racist and bigoted society.
I Persian Nights Diane .lohnson ((‘hatto £1 1 .95) Spicey story. rich in comedy and dark with intrigue. of an American woman abandoned to the Ayatollah when her doctor spouse is bleeped home.
I Leaving Home (iarrison Keillor (Faber £9.95) Woeful are we for Keillor has done a bunk from lake Wobegone and settled in New York where ‘all the women are astounding. all the men are in a hurry and all the children are on their way to something.’ This valedictory collection is drawn from the innumerable ad lib monologues Keillor delivered during his radio show. A Prairie Home ( ’(mzpanimz. in his ‘flat and slow‘ voice with long pauses and ‘sentences that trail off into the raspberry bushes.’ [Even better than a Commercial llot Beef Sandwich at the (‘hatterbox ('afe.
I A Charm Against Drowning Frederic Lindsay (Andre Deutsch £10.95) The third novel from the author of Brand and his best. encompassing lather and daughter. husband and wife. relationship crises. (‘ontemporary in its concerns with drug-addiction at its core. it is. nevertheless. a robust and emotional reappraisal of the past. in which
l l l
Alongside the progress ot the assassination and the biography of Lee llarvey()swa1d (treated sympathetically. he is. ironically. more real in fiction than he ever was alive) he has introduced a new element. that of the ambulance chaser. in the person of Nicholas Branch. an out-to-grass (‘lA operative who is charged with writing ‘the secret history ofthe assassination.‘
Branch accepts as ‘actuarial fact' the abnormal death rate among those connected in some way to the events til Ntty'c‘ttiltct' 33. int he is writing history. ‘not a study ofthe ways in which people succumb to paranoia.’ That is l)el.illo‘s prerogative. and paranoia permeates this eerie novel like winter fog. chilling the marrow with its exposure of evil and giving rise to guilt for cnioying reading about it so much. (Alan 'l'aylor)
Libra Dun Deli/lo (liking til [.95)
personal history is skewered with that ol a nation‘s.
I Blue Fruits Adam l.i\ ely (Simon & Schuster £9.95) Superficially sci-ft. this first novel. by the son of the more famous l’enelope. is a
w ell-intentioned time-warp tale in which a young linglishman goes to sea in the lh‘th century and disembarks 200 years later to iam in lax/land with black bluesmen. let not ambition mock his useful toil.
I The Truth About Lorin Jones Alison Lurie (Michael Joseph £1 1 .95) ()ne of a number of novels this year that takes the art of biography as its theme. l’olly Alter investigates her artist heroine l.orin .lones but finds more on her palate than she bargained for.
I Eight Months 0n Ghazzah Street llilary Mantel (Viking £11.95) ('ulture-clash as the expats in Saudi stick it out in the sand for the ‘golden handcuff‘ that will feather retirement in Blighty. l’elicttously phrased (Arab men are ‘a basket of laundry animated by a poltergeist’) and keenly-observed.
I The COUHCil 0i Egypt l .eonardo Sciascia(('arcanet £10.95)1“irst translated in linglish in 196(1 the Sicilian master. under the guise ofa deft. dazzling and dignified historical thriller. turns the thumb-screws on democracy and the abuse of power. I Out of this World (iraham Swift (Viking £10.95) Passed over by the prize-givers who seemed seduced by the beliefthat this is inferior to 'Waterland'. But ()()'1'W is in many ways a more controlled offering. a series of beautifully composed photographs. eitquisitely captioned. exposing the torn life of documentary photographer Harry Beech.
I The Bonfire ot the Vanities Tom Wolfe ((‘ape £11.95)(‘huckl)ickens meets the (‘ollins sisters in this hunk of bibliographical chic. High vanity and low society. the Big Apple reduced to a bruised (.‘ox‘s Pippin by one of the w-w-w-w-w—wittiest scribes in the diner.
56 The list 25 Nov -b’l)ec19b‘8